Make Policing in Vancouver More democratic and Equitable
Hello Mayor, City Manager, Chiefs, Councilors [Stober, Paulsen], and beloved community members:
I live within the city limits of Vancouver and have lived here for the majority of 2 decades and I strive to be anti-racist, not just “not racist”.
I am here today to ask the City Council to make policing in Vancouver more democratic and equitable. This can go a long way to improving race relations and relations with marginalized or targeted communities in our city.
When I say “democratic” I’m speaking about “lower case d for democracy” not partisan, “capital D Democractic” like the political party named after this principle. “Democracy” literally means “the people rule or government”. What I mean when I say I want the VPD to be more democratic is I want more citizen input on all aspects of the Vancouver Police Department.
I hope you have had an opportunity to read the email I sent June 6th titled “Request for Citizen Commission on Police Brutality and Systemic Racism“.
I want to thank our City Manager, for first jumping into action to create these listening sessions, and for proposing a Task Force to focus on policing in Vancouver. I also want to thank the City Council for giving the City Manager the thumbs up to move forward with this task force. As the City Manager stated at Monday’s City Council meeting the purpose of this task force is for transparency and accountability which are 2 things I support in our governments. I believe, if set up and empowered properly, a task force like this can begin to make VPD more democratic than it is now.
I, myself, have had the displeasure of filing a Professional Standards Unit complaint against more than one VPD officer. I did so because our mayor had mentioned it to me. And I can tell you the complaint process is not democratic nor very accessible to citizens. For me, to know what the officers had to say in response to the complaints, I have to do a public records request. The final complaint isn’t just automatically given to the citizen. The citizen has to do more work to get the information sent to them. I believe this policy is part of the reason it feels like an “us vs. them” mentality when it comes to the police and citizens. At this point, I’m terrified to even make the public records request because I have a sinking feeling that little to nothing was done to hold these officers accountable and the process wasn’t very transparent.
Recently, I wanted to make another Professional Standards Unit complaint but due to the off putting nature of my first set of complaints I have been hesitant to file my next complaint. I believe the current complaint process turns citizens off and away and we as a beloved city don’t get to enjoy the benefits of having our citizens fully engaged in the police complaint processes in our city.
I have had such a hard time with VPD regarding my cyberstalking, that I have gotten to the point I don’t even want to call them any further with my ongoing situation. I’ve resolved myself to endure the trauma of cyberstalking because dealing with the mistakes of the police over the matter is too unbearable for me.
In 2019, we got nearly half a million dollars in grant money for training for VPD regarding domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking and in my experience it was money wasted because my experience with VPD did not improve after that training took place. I seriously doubt our officers gained any useful knowledge from that training based off of the interactions I had with a couple of VPD officers. They didn’t use any special training while interacting with me, a traumatized victim. And I’m too scared to even report the incident to the Professional Standards Unit at this point.
We are failing our citizens when it comes to policing in Vancouver.
I urge you to make policing in Vancouver more democratic, so citizens have more input into the way policing is done in our city and how complaints are handled.
I have more to say but my time is up and I thank you for this opportunity to speak today.