Vancouver police chief Jim Chu has announced he's retiring after 36 years on the force.
In a message posted on Twitter this morning (January 23), he thanked community supporters, partners, and Vancouver Police Department staff.
Announcing my retirement after 36 yrs as @VancouverPD officer and 7.5 yrs as Chief. Thanks to community supporters, partners & VPD staff.— Jim Chu (@ChiefJimChu) January 23, 2015
Chu assumed command as chief constable of the VPD in 2007.
He began his tenure on a reconciliatory note, wrote Georgia Straight reporter Carlito Pablo in a cover story published during Chu's first year in charge.
"After years of fighting a series of complaints of abuse by its officers against poor people in the Downtown Eastside, the department issued a formal apology to the neighbourhood’s residents," Pablo reported.
"The department expressed 'regrets' that 'positive changes' in policies and procedures were not in practice at the time when the complaints were filed. The VPD stated in a news release in November 2007 that 'this marks the beginning of a new era of improved service to the residents of the Downtown Eastside'."
Chu, the first person of colour to lead the Vancouver Police Department, is the son of immigrant parents from Shanghai. He joined the VPD as a beat cop in 1979 and went on to hold the ranks of inspector, detective, and patrol sergeant.
He was often a champion of diversity, regularly appearing in the Pride, Vaisakhi, and Chinese New Year parades.
Under Chu's command, the VPD implemented a "broken windows" style of policing, working to address minor law infractions as a method of reducing more serious crime. It also showed more compassion in how it dealt with homeless people as well as individuals who struggle with a mental illness and/or addiction. In 2009, for example, Chu saw the VPD remove from its business plan a provision that would have set targets for more tickets issued to poor people in the Downtown Eastside. More recently, in September 2013, Chu stood alongside Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson and made a public call for the province to provide more resources for mental-health care.
Under Chu's command, the VPD didn't launch a crackdown on the city's growing number of marijuana dispensaries. As president of the Canadian Association of Police Chiefs, Chu urged the federal government to change the law to allow for ticketing people with small amounts of marijuana.
The force also remained supportive of Canada's only supervised-injection site, even though it was opposed by the federal government.
Under Chu's leadership, the VPD pioneered progressive approach to dealing with sex workers. The department's 2013 sex-work enforcement guidelines stated that all cases of violence or abuse of sex workers should be treated as "serious criminal matters" and that an officer should be assigned to investigate.
The VPD also declared that the safety of sex workers would be respected and that police intervention following complaints would be "as nonintrustive and informal as possible in order to protect the safety, and privacy of those they are investigating".
Despite this widely hailed policy, UBC researcher and associate professor of medicine Kate Shannon found that the VPD's focus on clients rather than sex workers did not alter rates of physical violence and rape.
Chu's VPD faced other criticisms.
For years Pivot Legal Society and other nonprofits accused his officers of disproportionately applying bylaw tickets to poor people. There were a number of controversial deaths involving the VPD such as that of Michael Vann Hubbard, a homeless man who was shot and killed by police in March 2009. The department's tactics were also questioned regarding its handling of a 2011 riot that followed the Vancouver Canucks losing the Stanley Cup.
Chu's first day as chief came the morning after a mentally ill animator, Paul Boyd, was shot by Const. Lee Chipperfied at the corner of Granville Street and West 15th Avenue.
Robertson, with whom Chu shared a close relationship, is expected to join the outgoing chief at a press conference later this afternoon.