Hollywood’s Steven Seagal is coming as a special guest. And Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson is also slated to attend.
This evening (June 7), it’s the 15th-anniversary gala and fundraising dinner for the Odd Squad Productions Society, a nonprofit organization of active and retired Vancouver police officers. The Odd Squad films interactions between its members and residents of the Downtown Eastside.
Not everyone is happy with what the group is doing. In fact, protesters are planning to show up at the Vancouver Convention Centre, where the Odd Squad is holding its party.
“The Odd Squad is a bunch of cops that go around doing documentaries on various social issues to educate youth to be aware of—so, like, stuff on gangs, addiction, alcoholism, stuff like that,” Jennifer Allan told the Straight in a phone interview. “But how they go about doing it is very exploitative.”
Allan is a cofounder of the citizens’ group Vancouver Cop Watch. Armed with cameras, members of this group monitor police actions in the Downtown Eastside.
Members of the Odd Squad on active police duty are also featured in a TV series produced by the Montreal-based Galafilm. Airing this summer, the 10-episode show called The Beat II follows police officers as they deal with people in the neighbourhood. It’s a follow-up to The Beat, which aired on Citytv in 2010.
According to Allan, many residents in the community didn’t like The Beat. “They told a one-way story about the Downtown Eastside that’s a horrible, criminal, AIDS–infested neighbourhood,” Allan said.
The Odd Squad didn’t make a spokesperson available for interview with the Straight before deadline.
Doug King, a lawyer with the Pivot Legal Society, noted that his group doesn’t favour the Odd Squad’s practice of filming police-related incidents in the Downtown Eastside.
“It just raises the issue of why only the Downtown Eastside,” King told the Straight in a phone interview. “We’ve heard stories of police responding to domestic-assault incidents and showing up with camera crews. And that’s something I don’t think they would do in any other neighbourhood.”
King also said that there are questions on how waivers are being granted by residents to allow themselves to be filmed. “It’s an incredibly invasive thing to do,” he stated. “And it raises this kind of issue of discrimination in the neighbourhood. They treat the neighbourhood like a war zone.”
In a May 24 media release, the Odd Squad Productions Society stated that its anniversary event has the support of 50 corporate sponsors.