Black, Indigenous and Middle Eastern people are far more likely to report misconduct by municipal police forces than other British Columbians, data released to Black Press Media show.
The Office of the Police Complaints Commissioner (PCC), which oversees 14 police forces including 12 municipal departments, has been collecting information on the race of complainants on a voluntary basis. That information hasn’t previously been released in the body’s annual report, but the OPCC is planning to include it in its next report.
The figures for the 2019-20 fiscal year, which were provided to Black Press Media upon request, show some visible minorities report police misconduct at a much higher rate than would be expected given the make-up of British Columbia and communities policed by forces that report to the OPCC. The forces overseen by the OPCC include police in Central Saanich, Oak Bay, Saanich, Victoria, Abbotsford, Delta, Nelson, New Westminster, Port Moody, Vancouver and West Vancouver, along with Metro Vancouver’s Transit Police, the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU), and the Stl’atl’imx Tribal Police Service.
People of Indigenous, Black and Middle Eastern descent all reported police misconduct at significantly higher rate than whites and other minorities. Together those groups account for about 20 per cent of all complaints, but make up less than eight per cent of the population of B.C. and of those communities policed by municipal forces.
Twelve per cent of all complainants to the OPCC identified themselves as Indigenous. In the 2016 census, First Nations comprised less than six per cent of the province’s total population and just over three per cent of the population in places with municipal police forces. That figure includes 6,260 mostly-Indigenous people policed by the Stl’atl’imx Tribal Police Service.
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Black people, who comprise just one per cent of the population in B.C. and in communities with municipal police forces, filed four per cent of all complaints in which the race of the complainant was identified.
And those of Middle Eastern background filed a similar number of complaints, despite the 2016 census reporting those of “Arab” background to make up just 0.5 per cent of British Columbia’s population.
Race and ethnicity was volunteered in about 75 per cent of all complaints, but even if all non-respondents were white, Black, Indigenous and Middle Eastern people would still be significantly over-represented among those reporting misconduct.
White people submitted about 55 per cent of complaints in which race was registered. They comprise about 70 per cent of the population in B.C. and about 58 per cent of the population in communities with municipal police forces. (Metro Vancouver’s Transit Police and the CFSEU police areas beyond the borders of municipal forces.)
Black Press Media has requested police-force-level complaint information from the OPCC, but the organization’s media liaison is not available until next week.
Black Press Media has also sought comment from First Nations and civil liberty advocates.
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