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B.C. Police Act changes pave way for better oversight, governance

VICTORIA — The British Columbia government is bringing in changes to its Police Act to improve governance and oversight of municipal police departments in the province. 

The legislation, if passed, would expand the jurisdictions of B.C.’s two police watchdogs, the Independent Investigations Office and the Office of the Police Complaint Commission. 

The complaints commission would be able to start its own investigations looking into systemic problems it might see, and the new mandate would allow it to conduct its own investigations into police actions sooner. 

The commission says in a news release that if the legislation passes, the changes will be an important step in improving oversight in the province. 

Under the changes, serious actions of jail guards would fall under the jurisdiction of the Independent Investigations Office, which its director Ronald MacDonald says would enhance the appearance of such investigations. 

Local governments would also be allowed to decide who their representative would be on their police board, unlike now where the mayor is automatically the chair. 

Public Safety Minister and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth says in a statement the changes are a “turning point in B.C.”

He said the changes create a policing system that is fair and responsive to the needs of our communities.

“We count on our police to respond in difficult situations to keep us safe and there are ongoing conversations on how to change policing to keep pace with a changing world, particularly for many Black, Indigenous and other people of minority communities who have had negative experiences with the police,” Farnworth said in a news release. 

The changes arise from a report from the Special Committee on Reforming the Police Act released in 2022 and from a Special Committee to Review the Police Complaints Process in 2019. 

Much of the province is policed by RCMP, although there are more than a dozen local police forces that fall under the changes, including Surrey, which is transitioning to an independent force. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first publishedApril 4, 2024. 

The Canadian Press


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