Coup de police – By Rob Wipond, November 2013
In the province, concerns surrounding the lack of police oversight are brought to the forefront with the exposure of secret police chief association records. Delving deep into the records of two BC associations of chiefs of police, a disconcerting picture emerges, raising serious questions about the unchecked powers of the police.
The Quest for Transparency
A catch-up: In an attempt to shed light on the BC Association of Chiefs of Police (BCACP) and BC Association of Municipal Chiefs of Police (BCAMCP), which have significant influence over public opinion and justice policies, an investigation was launched. Surprisingly, public information about these influential groups was nearly non-existent. The journey to uncover the truth turned into a compelling saga (refer to Focus October 2012, May 2013, July/August 2013).
The Ambiguous Nature of Associations
When pressed for information, the chiefs were evasive, claiming that their associations were “private” and the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) did not apply to them. However, considering their extensive lobbying efforts, it seemed reasonable to expect some trace of their activities in the BC Lobbyist Registry. Astonishingly, they also maintained that the BC Lobbyists Registration Act did not apply because their association work was part of their official duties as public employees.
During mediation with the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner (OIPC), basic records from various police departments, including Victoria, Saanich, Central Saanich, and West Vancouver, were obtained. These records, although not comprehensive, provided valuable insights. However, the most alarming discovery was the true nature of these associations.
A Public-Private Hybrid
BCAMCP and BCACP operate as fully hybrid public-private entities, raising concerns about their compliance with applicable laws.
Public Work Behind Closed Doors
Shadows of Governance
Clayton Pecknold, the assistant deputy minister of Justice and director of Police Services, frequently updates the government on crucial matters during these meetings. The provincial government utilizes the associations as primary channels for communication and consultation with police forces. They also request association representatives to join significant governing boards related to law enforcement. Notably, the associations have signed important agreements with key entities such as the chief coroner, chief electoral officer, police complaint commissioner, and BC Assembly of First Nations.
The associations take on the responsibility of conceiving and coordinating numerous collaborative initiatives within the realm of policing. For instance, the BCACP successfully orchestrated the 2012 safe driving campaigns, which involved the province, all BC police agencies, and ICBC.
In summary, the records provide undeniable evidence of policing governance activities that are expected from our police leaders. However, a significant problem arises: these associations function as private clubs. They operate independently, without any obligation to report to a public body. The associations are not subject to freedom of information laws, and access to their major undertakings is only possible due to serendipitous discovery of association records on police department computers. Additionally, the associations dictate who can attend meetings through strict criteria and votes, leaving elected representatives and senior public servants as mere participants.
Balancing Act: Policemen Turned Lobbyists
Notably, the associations engage in private lobbying efforts, advocating for stricter drug laws, expanding surveillance, and enjoying direct access to ministers and senior bureaucrats without any official monitoring.
The Power of Covert Influence
The efficacy of this clandestine lobbying becomes apparent when observing how proposed measures swiftly transform into laws. For example, the proposal to ban cell phones while driving, brought forward by Victoria Police Chief Jamie Graham, soon became law in BC after being presented to both associations. Furthermore, the BCACP played a leading role in crime reduction planning following Abbotsford Police Chief Bob Rich’s proposal for a BC Crime Reduction Initiative. The associations’ discussions concerning the BC Liberals’ roadside prohibition laws and the media’s interpretation of them also raise concerns about the extent to which the associations blur the line between impartial law enforcement and biased political activism.
The Peculiar Financial Dynamics
Finances and administration shed further light on the associations’ operations. While the majority of their funding comes from members’ public employers, it is noteworthy that the Canadian Bankers Association (CBA) has made regular donations to the BCACP. In fact, the CBA contributed $10,000, accounting for one-fifth of the BCACP’s budget last year. The association’s gratitude towards the CBA and their mention of forming partnerships with robbery investigators raise questions about the association’s compromised nature.
Reflecting on the Intricacies
The intertwining relationships between police associations, government bodies, and private organizations warrant careful consideration. Should private meetings with the US Secret Service or accepting private donations from banking representatives be viewed as permissible within the context of public duties? These questions challenge our perception of transparency, accountability, and the role of our police leaders. The revelation of these secret police association records has exposed a complex web of influence, questionable practices, and blurred boundaries. The need for robust police oversight and transparency becomes apparent, urging us to re-evaluate the extent of power wielded by these associations and their impact on public policies and individual privacy rights.