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Policing poverty in Victoria

Written by Sherwin, published on May 13, 2012

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I went to a panel discussion yesterday [Saturday] on policing and accountability in Victoria last night. I thought it was super interesting.

The panel consisted of David Eby, Hilary Marks, Ashley Mollison, and a couple of delegates from VANDU in Vancouver.

There was much said, and I wasn’t taking notes so I won’t try to report on the proceedings. But I will take this opportunity to reflect on what has stayed with me. I should also direct your attention to the report that VIPIRG did on the issue of policing poverty in Victoria.

Idea 1: To understand policing, we need to understand property development. This is not new. To understand policing we should also understand the history of police. We can’t understand police without understanding property development, property values and the politics of mayoral replacement.

Idea 2: The application of law is discretionary. Victoria police rely on their judgement to know when to ticket, search, arrest, or seize personal property. This isn’t always a bad thing. But too often, police in British Columbia are asked to serve the interests of people with mortgages and businesses, at the expense of people living in poverty.

Idea 3: A disproportionate number of Indigenous people and black folks are incarcerated in British Columbia.

Idea 4: Marginalized groups are often incarcerated for lapsed tickets, possession, and other nonviolent crimes.

Idea 5: We are seeing a rise of the Mass Incarceration Agenda. This agenda is made clear by massive spending increasing on jails, privatization of jails, and the recent omnibus crime bill that the Federal Conservatives pushed through.

Idea 6: Municipal police forces have huge budgets. These budgets are steadily rising and seemingly untouchable. A huge percentage of city budgets go towards policing, and this policing is focused on social problems for which police officers simply do not have adequate training.

Idea 7: BC police forces lack accountability. A disproportionate number of problem police officers in BC escape accountability, when compared with other provinces.

Idea 8: It’s important that marginalized communities organize and have a presence in municipal politics. And it’s easier to prevent bad laws from getting on the books, than removing them later, so pay attention to the formation of law.

Idea 9: Look for partners and allies everywhere.

Idea 10: Come up with concrete policies to bring forward to city hall.

I’ll close by linking to a video of an Indigenous man getting hogtied and tasered repeatedly in police custody in Prince George. He died the next day. Trigger warning: extreme violence. The original coroner’s report claimed he died from a cocaine overdose.

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