Is Mayor Kennedy Stewart making it difficult for the VPD?
The Vancouver Police Department has publicly accused Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart of making their job more difficult, but they haven’t explained how exactly
Policing is a difficult profession, but it is not above the responsibility.
The duties, responsibilities and dangers assumed by the police justify fair compensation. Cops are responsible for exercising the necessary authority fairly, with the appropriate amount of force required in each unique situation, to keep the public safe.
This power, however, requires that the police be accountable to this same public. Being held to a high standard is in the job description.
Unfortunately, the most pressing political issue in the city of Vancouver today is police accountability. This was demonstrated in the almost unprecedented public relations war between Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart and the Vancouver Police Department.
Since the 1940s, when then Vancouver Mayor Gerry McGeer led populist campaigns on police reform, the VPD’s relationship with the city’s mayor has not been so strained.
Mayor Stewart’s break with Vancouver police became visible a year ago. While Stewart acknowledged the systemic racism within the city’s institutions, Vancouver Police Chief Adam Palmer not only denied the systemic racism within Canadian police services, but argued that such a suggestion was “offensive”.
Palmer was also president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police at the time. His successor in that post, Waterloo Police Chief Bryan Larkin, has publicly stated that systemic racism exists in Canadian police services – almost immediately after Palmer’s tenure ended in August 2020.
RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki also admitted that systemic racism exists within the RCMP in June 2020.
Yet Chief Palmer maintains his public disagreement with Mayor Stewart.
This gap has widened over the past year. In July 2020, Vancouver City Council voted to abolish street checks, which the VPD’s own data shows disproportionately target black and Indigenous residents. In April 2021, the Vancouver School Board voted to end its School Liaison Officer program with the VPD. In June 2021, Mayor Stewart resigned as spokesperson for the Vancouver Police Board, calling the council’s positions “untenable.”
The high-profile incidents of handcuffs on a 12-year-old Indigenous girl and retired British Columbia Supreme Court Judge Selwyn Romilly have further fueled public scrutiny of systemic racism and racial profiling within Vancouver Police.
In the two egregious cases, the VPD offered little explanation beyond the regrettable and unfortunate incidents.
Other questionable incidents surfaced on social media last month: a VPD officer throwing himself at the neck of a black man who was already handcuffed while a young white man beating police without apprehension; Black woman handcuffed for playing basketball on public school property over the weekend.
Yet it is the Vancouver police who publicly condemn Mayor Stewart.
In June, Sgt. Blair Canning – Chief Palmer’s former partner – filed a complaint with the Vancouver Police Board that Stewart’s comments created a “toxic work environment,” contributing to an increase in assaults on officers and a challenge to police officers. recruitment. Last week, Staff Sgt. Mark Christensen tweeted that Stewart’s lack of support doesn’t make the police – an increasingly difficult job in recent years, in his opinion – any easier.
However, neither Canning nor Christensen characterized these accusations as causal evidence.
The president of the Canadian Police Association, Tom Stamatakis, tried to corroborate the allegations. Stamatakis mainly accused Stewart of “performative BS” without explaining how Stewart directly made the VPD’s job more difficult.
It wasn’t exactly a compelling case.
Indeed, from 2010 to 2020, the entire VPD budget increased by 70% without any cuts in 2020, despite the layoff of 1,800 municipal employees during the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, VPD represents 21% of the City of Vancouver’s operating budget.
Despite hysteria from Vancouver 2022 mayoral candidates and local radio hosts, incidents of criminal offenses actually declined 18.6% in 2020 from 2019. Calls for service have declined by 10.7%.
This year, from January to May, criminal incidents decreased by almost 21% compared to the same period last year.
So it’s unclear exactly how Stewart made the VPD’s job so much more difficult.
What is clear, however, is that the Vancouver Police Department must be accountable to the public, whether it is explaining a series of apparently race-based police decisions or laying charges based on race. work against the mayor. In practical terms only, it is difficult to sympathize with the VPD otherwise.
Mo Amir is the host of This is VANCOLOUR, a political and cultural podcast available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts and thisisvancolour.com