Report highly critical of some policing
Pivot Legal Society study says that police can exacerbate OD risks and homelessness
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.