Director of police services Clayton Pecknold speaks during a press conference at the press gallery at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., Monday, December 19, 2016. Accessibility to British Columbia’s municipal police complaints process can and should be improved, its commissioner says, as the office faces criticism from both legal advocates and the head of Vancouver’s police union. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

Director of police services Clayton Pecknold speaks during a press conference at the press gallery at Legislature in Victoria, B.C., Monday, December 19, 2016. Accessibility to British Columbia’s municipal police complaints process can and should be improved, its commissioner says, as the office faces criticism from both legal advocates and the head of Vancouver’s police union. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

Change needed for access, outreach: B.C. police complaints commissioner

The office only investigates the 14 municipal police departments in B.C., not the RCMP

Accessibility to British Columbia’s municipal police complaints process can and should be improved, its commissioner says, as the office faces criticism from both legal advocates and the head of Vancouver’s police union.

Clayton Pecknold, who was appointed to the role in 2019, said in an interview he’s aware of criticism over how his office responds to complaints against local police forces and officers.

“We want to expand our ability to be accessible and our ability to lower the barriers to the police complaints process,” he said. “We absolutely want to improve that.”

Part of the issue, he said, is making it clear that his office only investigates the 14 municipal police departments in B.C., not the RCMP.

His office is also grappling with tackling underlying issues in police forces that can lead to misconduct in situations such as street checks and the mishandling of investigations into sexualized violence and relationship violence.

The commissioner’s office is different from the other provincial police watchdog, the Independent Investigations Office, which can recommend charges to the Crown after investigating officer-involved deaths and incidents of serious harm.

The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner investigates misconduct, can compel officers to testify and reports to the B.C. legislature.

“Given the importance of the dialogue in respect to police accountability, we want to be a little bit more active in the public understanding our role,” he said.

Pecknold said he was shocked to learn that family members of a complainant didn’t know what his office does or that it would be investigating the complaint.

“It’s something that I take seriously and I want to think about how we close that gap,” he said.

That accountability comes with criticism from those being investigated: police officers.

ALSO READ: Man killed in police shooting on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside

Ralph Kaisers, the president of both the BC Police Association and the Vancouver Police Union, said his officers have worked to have a less adversarial relationship with the Independent Investigations Office, but the same can’t be said of the relationship with Pecknold’s office.

“There is little to no trust whatsoever in the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner by way of police members in this province,” Kaisers said.

Kaisers said investigations are an onerous process for officers to go through, and more oversight is needed of the complaints commissioner.

“It turns into ‘This is what was being investigated, but aha you forgot to fill out this form,’” he said. “It’s like a big fishing net that gets thrown out once someone complains about something.”

Investigations need to be put into separate categories, such as minor and major infractions, Kaisers said, which would help speed up the process and reduce the stress on the officers involved.

Kaisers said he and his union strongly believe in police oversight and accountability, but they don’t like the complaints commissioner’s processes.

Pecknold said he agrees with Kaisers’ suggestions of separating complaints into major and minor categories, but reinforced that his duty is to the public.

“It’s certainly disappointing to hear that’s his view,” Pecknold said in reaction to the lack of trust from police in his office. “But, at the end of the day, it’s important that the public have confidence in the oversight of police.”

Officers should want to uphold that public trust, he added.

“The reality is that the public have to have trust in their police and have to have trust that their police will be held accountable,” Pecknold said.

Harsha Walia, the executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, said the difficulties in making a complaint should be addressed immediately.

Many people who file complaints are unclear of the role of the commissioner, and better messaging is needed for what he can and can’t investigate, she said.

“The number of people who are able to access police accountability mechanisms … is very small,” she said. “The most significant challenge continues to be the access to justice.”

Pecknold admits the timeliness of his investigations can be improved, part of which could be supported by the provincial government.

“Legislative reform would be helpful to improve that timeliness, and that’s in the hands of government.”

Nick Wells, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Police

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dog owners, from left, Marlyn Briggs with Nayla, Marjory Sutherland with Effie and Mick, and Christina Godbolt with Conon walk their pets frequently at the Chemainus Ball Park but are growing increasingly concerned about drugs being found discarded in the area. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Puppy requires emergency treatment 3 times after ingesting drugs from Chemainus parks

Dog owners walking in Chemainus parks urged to take caution

The Cowichan Valley School District is holding an online session to discuss the future of Koksilah Elementary School, closed since 2013. (File photo)
What’s the future of the old Koksilah Elementary School?

The district is hoping to collect feedback on options for the future of the school.

Jim Neiser of Neiser Sales, Service & Rentals Ltd. died suddenly on Jan. 4. after suffering an apparent cardiac event at work. (Submitted photo)
Prominent Lake Cowichan businessman Jim Neiser dead at 63

Lake Cowichan Mayor Bob Day said the long-time laker will be missed.

The Judy Hill Gallery took home top prize for its window display during the Christmas season from the Downtown Duncan BIA. (Submitted photo)
Business notes: Judy Hill Gallery wins festive window display contest

A look at what’s going on in the Cowichan business community

Environment Canada is forecasting snow for the east Vancouver Island region the weekend of Jan. 23. (Black Press file)
Up to 15 cm of snow forecast for Duncan area this weekend

Snow to begin Saturday night, according to Environment Canada

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin sets up for mass vaccination clinic in Toronto, Jan. 17, 2021. B.C. is set to to begin its large-scale immunization program for the general public starting in April. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April

Clinics to immunize four million people by September

The Vancouver-based SAR team successfully rescued two lost snowshoers off of the west side of Tim Jones Peak in the early morning of Monday, Jan. 19. (North Shore Rescue photo)
B.C.’s busiest SAR team raises alarm after 2021 begins with fatality, multiple rescues

‘People beyond ski resort areas of Seymour, Grouse, and Cypress go without cell reception,’ SAR warns

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Emergency crews were called to a semi-truck crash along the Trans-Canada Highway at Oyster Sto’Lo Road on Friday, Jan. 22. (Cole Schisler/Black Press)
Semi truck crashes off the side of the highway in Ladysmith

Driver taken to hospital as precaution after single-vehicle crash Friday

Police are searching for an alleged sex offender, Nicole Edwards, who they say has not returned to her Vancouver halfway house. (Police handout)
Police hunt for woman charged in ‘horrific’ assault who failed to return to Surrey halfway house

Call 911 immediately if you see alleged sex offender Nicole Edwards, police say

A screenshot from a local Instagram account video. The account appeared to be frequented by Mission students, and showed violent videos of students assaulting and bullying other students.
Parents, former students describe ‘culture of bullying’ in Mission school district

Nearly two dozen voices come forward speaking of abuse haunting the hallways in Mission, B.C.

Joe Biden, then the U.S. vice-president, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau take their seats at the start of the First Ministers and National Indigenous Leaders meeting in Ottawa, Friday, Dec. 9, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau, Biden to talk today as death of Keystone XL reverberates in Canada

President Joe Biden opposed the Keystone XL expansion as vice-president under Barack Obama

Prince Edward Island’s provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Friday July 3, 2020. A lozenge plant in Prince Edward Island has laid off 30 workers, citing an “almost non-existent” cold and cough season amid COVID-19 restrictions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘Almost non-existent’ cold and cough season: P.E.I. lozenge plant lays off 30 workers

The apparent drop in winter colds across the country seems to have weakened demand for medicine and natural remedies

Robert Riley Saunders. (File)
Disgraced Kelowna social worker faces another class-action lawsuit

Zackary Alphonse claims he was not informed of resources available to him upon leaving government care

Most Read