Re­port highly crit­i­cal of some polic­ing

Pivot Le­gal So­ci­ety study says that po­lice can ex­ac­er­bate OD risks and home­less­ness

StarMetro Vancouver - - VANCOUVER - JESSE WIN­TER

A re­port re­leased Wed­nes­day by Pivot Le­gal So­ci­ety says po­lice in­ter­ac­tions with marginal­ized peo­ple are too com­mon in B.C. The re­port is the re­sult of two years of in­ves­ti­ga­tion, span­ning 10 com­mu­ni­ties un­der the prov­ince’s five re­gional health author­i­ties. It en­com­passes mul­ti­ple fo­cus groups and sur­veys as well as in­ter­views with 76 peo­ple and more than 100 ser­vice providers.

Find­ings of the re­port in­clude:

The rou­tine dis­rup­tion of harm-re­duc­tion ac­tiv­i­ties, in­clud­ing seizure or de­struc­tion of drug para­pher­na­lia, un­nec­es­sary po­lice pres­ence near su­per­vised con­sump­tion sites and un­nec­es­sary po­lice at­ten­dance at emer­gency over­dose re­sponse calls

Over-polic­ing of marginal­ized com­mu­ni­ties, in­clud­ing dis­crim­i­na­tion, ha­rass­ment, de­ten­tion with­out charge and use of force di­rected dis­pro­por­tion­ately at Indige­nous peo­ple, peo­ple who use drugs and peo­ple ex­pe­ri­enc­ing home­less­ness

The rou­tine con­fis­ca­tion of the per­sonal prop­erty of peo­ple liv­ing in pub­lic spa­ces as “one el­e­ment of an all-en­com­pass­ing and op­pres­sive net­work of polic­ing that also in­cludes by­law of­fi­cers and pri­vate se­cu­rity guards”

Rather than dis­cour­ag­ing sub­stance use, po­lice con­fis­ca­tion of drug para­pher­na­lia ac­tu­ally en­cour­ages riskier be­hav­iour, the re­port says.

Some of the re­port’s par­tic­i­pants re­ported search­ing for used drug para­pher­na­lia — such as nee­dles — on the ground af­ter hav­ing their clean sup­plies seized.

This dra­mat­i­cally in­creases the risk of the spread of dis­eases such as HIV and hep­ati­tis C, the Pivot re­port says, and runs counter to “long­stand­ing pub­lic-health ef­forts to re­duce rates” of such dis­eases.

In a state­ment, the Van­cou­ver Po­lice De­part­ment pointed to sev­eral long-stand­ing poli­cies it has em­braced to align its en­force­ment ac­tiv­i­ties more closely with the goals of harm re­duc­tion. Since 2006, the state­ment said, the VPD has ac­tively en­cour­aged peo­ple who use drugs to ac­cess the city’s harm-re­duc­tion sites and does not tar­get in­di­vid­ual drug users for ar­rest for per­sonal posses­sion of il­licit drugs.

An RCMP of­fi­cer in Sur­rey stops a man who ap­peared to be in­tox­i­cated ear­lier this year. A Pivot Le­gal So­ci­ety re­port crit­i­cizes many po­lice in­ter­ac­tions with marginal­ized peo­ple in B.C.

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