Random, discriminatory street checks outlawed in new Vancouver police guidelines

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      No one should be stopped by the Vancouver police for no reason at all.

      Nor should anyone be checked on the street by officers because of a person’s race or economic status.

      These are a couple of key provisions in a new set of guidelines issued by the Vancouver police board.

      The policy was drafted by the Vancouver Police Department in compliance with policing standards set by the B.C. provincial government.

      The provincial standards, which address concerns over the over-representation of Indigenous people and racial minorities in street stops, took effect on January 15, 2020.

      According to a VPD information report included in the police board’s meeting agenda on Thursday (January 23), the provincial standards address “themes of arbitrary police stops, discriminatory practices, the collection of identifying information, and the rights of citizens during police stops”.

      The report states that the approved policy “gives direction and clarity to VPD members about these concerns and how they are operationalized into street check practices, while remaining compliant with the Standard”.

      The policy provides that random or arbitrary stops are not permitted.

      “Arbitrary or random Street Checks or police stops, which may or may not include a request for or the collection or recording of a person’s identifying information shall not be conducted,” the policy states.

      The report to the police board notes that police officers “cannot stop someone based solely on an identity factor”.

      The policy notes that identity Factors include “economic or social status, race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or age”.

      “The decision to conduct a Street Check or a police stop shall not be based on Identity Factors,” the policy reads.

      According to the report to the police board, an officer should take steps to “ensure a person is aware of their rights during a street check”.

      The policy provides that the interaction should be “voluntary”, and that the person subject to the stop is not required to provide any identifying information or answer any questions, and is “free to walk away at any time”.

      The report to the police board explains that psychological detention happens when a person “reasonably but erroneously believes they have no choice but to cooperate with the police”.

      The policy mandates that if an officer “concludes that a person is psychologically detained the member should conclude the Street Check and allow the person to proceed”.

      The policy also provides that officers are “not permitted to request or demand, collect, or record a person’s identifying information without a justifiable reason”.

      According to the policy, an officer “may request that a person voluntarily provide identifying information” in situations that include assisting in locating a missing person, and helping a person in distress.