Mayors will no longer automatically be chairs of police boards under new B.C. reforms

Mayors will no longer automatically be chairs of police boards under new B.C. reforms
Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth looks on during a press conference in the press theatre at legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, October 5, 2023.

The B.C. government has announced reforms to the Police Act, which are intended to improve oversight within the system.

Some of the more significant changes include the way police board chairs are selected. Previously, mayors were automatically appointed the chair of the local police board.

Now, police boards will allow local governments and members of police to elect their own chairs and vice-chairs.

The new legislation will also make it easier for the police complaint commissioner to call a public hearing into a misconduct investigation and gives the commissioner the authority to conduct systemic reviews to try to root out causes and contributors of police complaints.

“By focusing on changes to municipal policing, we are setting the foundation for a modern policing system that is fair, equitable and responsive to all communities,” said Mike Farnworth, minister of public safety and solicitor general in a release Thursday.

Ongoing changes

The changes to the Police Act are part of the province’s response to recommendations made during the 2022 Special Committee on Reforming the Police Act, as well as the 2019 Special Committee to Review the Police Complaint Process and requests by the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner.

The province says this is just the first phase of changes to the Police Act.

Further reforms are expected to take place after the province completes “broad engagement” with local governments, police representatives, police oversight agencies, Indigenous partners and community-based organizations.

IIO jurisdiction

Ronald J. Macdonald, chief civilian director of the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) of B.C., says the reforms announced Thursday also impact his office.

“The changes made to the Police Act today extend the jurisdiction of the IIO to include examining the actions of jail guards,” he said.

Previously, if a person was seriously harmed or died while under the watch of a jail guard, local police would investigate the matter.

Now, the IIO is responsible for investigating these incidents, which “enhances the appearance of independence in these important investigations,” says Macdonald.

“Given the over-representation of Indigenous and other equity-owed groups in the justice system, this change, in addition to continued work in partnerships with community leadership, will help to contribute to improved treatment and outcomes for all equity-owed groups in B.C,” he said.

SEE ALSO: Police watchdog tells board an external agency should conduct VicPD complaint investigation

Adam ChanAdam Chan

Recent Stories

Send us your news tips and videos!