Last month, the B.C. legislative assembly appointed a bipartisan committee to recommend the next police complaint commissioner.
Stan Lowe, who was sworn into this job in February 2009, may be in for a second term. This sounds good to Doug King, a lawyer with Pivot Legal Society, a Vancouver-based nonprofit whose work includes efforts to make police accountable for their actions.
“We’ve seen Stan as pretty progressive in terms of how he wants the office to be,” King told the Straight in a phone interview.
According to King, the office of the police complaint commissioner (OPCC) is limited in a number of ways in what it can do as a civilian-oversight agency over internal investigations of alleged misconduct by municipal police forces. (The OPCC doesn’t have jurisdiction over the RCMP.)
But he noted that Lowe has “pushed the boundaries” by ordering public hearings when police investigations seem inadequate.
“He’s really fought for stiffer sentences when misconduct is proven,” King said about Lowe, a former Crown counsel spokesperson.
King cited as an example the case of Taylor Robinson, a Vancouver police constable who shoved a woman with multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy to the sidewalk in June 2010. Lowe disagreed with the initial disciplinary action proposed by the police department of a one-day suspension and later, following a review, a two-day suspension.
The OPCC appointed ex-judge Wally Oppal to conduct a public hearing on the issue. In November of this year, Oppal handed down a six-day suspension of Robinson, more than four years after the original incident.
According to King, Lowe indicated to him during a recent meeting that he’s interested in serving another term.
Lowe’s deputy, Rollie Woods, explained that under the Police Act, the legislative committee would have to consider Lowe before it looks elsewhere.
Although he maintained that he doesn’t know what Lowe intends to do, Woods told the Straight by phone: “I think there’s been communication between the commissioner and the committee.”