Police Oversight in British Columbia

Municipal police officers in British Columbia are subject to more oversight than any other profession. Police boards, as the employers of the municipal police departments, ensure civilian oversight on behalf of the community. There are, however, various other organizations and oversight bodies that ensure accountability in policing in British Columbia.

Although the Vancouver Police Board processes all complaints with respect to the general direction and management or operation of the Department (Service or Policy Complaints), the Board has no jurisdiction over conduct complaints against police officers. The Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner (OPCC) is independent of both government and police departments, and oversees the conduct complaint process to ensure that investigations into police misconduct conducted by the police are thorough and fair. The OPCC has broad powers to order further investigation, public hearings and independent reviews. The OPCC also provides recommendations to boards for improvements to the delivery of police services to the public, and recommendations for improvements to the Police Act. From an oversight perspective, the Vancouver Police Board shares the public’s concern that officers carry out their duties in a professional manner. When improper conduct is alleged, the Board expects to see a full and impartial investigation and be assured that if improper behaviour is found, those at fault will be held accountable.

The Independent Investigations Office (IIO) is a civilian organization, established under the Ministry of the Attorney General and led by a Chief Civilian Director. This agency is responsible for conducting investigations to a criminal law standard into on- or off-duty police officer-related incidents which result in serious bodily harm or death. They have jurisdiction for all of B.C.’s policing agencies, and their authority comes from the Police Act. Police agencies are required to notify the IIO of any incidents that fall under their mandate, and the Board receives routine reports outlining IIO notifications. All investigative decision making, and the decision to issue a public report or refer a matter to Crown counsel, is completely independent from the Ministry of the Attorney General.
The Policing and Security Branch is responsible for ensuring adequate and effective levels of policing and superintending law enforcement pursuant to the Police Act. The Director of Police Services establishes provincial standards on policing. Examples of this include policing standards on firearms, use of force, police service dogs, reporting and investigation, training, equipment and facilities, specialized investigations, police stops, unbiased policing and police pursuits. The Vancouver Police Board is responsible for revising and approving the Board’s and Department’s policy to align with the implementation of provincial standards and any other legislative change.
The Provincial Coroner investigates all suspicious deaths. Coroner’s inquests make recommendations to prevent similar deaths in the future; these often involve recommendations to the departments and also, on occasion, to police boards. When the Vancouver Police Board receives a letter from the Provincial Coroner attaching inquest recommendations, the Board and VPD work to implement these recommendations and to develop a response for the Board to approve and communicate to the Coroner.