BC Urban Mayors’ Caucus supports proposed changes to Police Act

THE BC Urban Mayors’ Caucus (BCUMC) in a statement on Monday welcomed the recommended reforms and changes laid out in Policing and Community Safety in British Columbia, a report by the BC Legislature’s Special Committee on Reforming the Police Act.

The Caucus, a coalition of 13 mayors from Abbotsford, Burnaby, Coquitlam, Kamloops, Kelowna, Nanaimo, New Westminster, Prince George, Richmond, Saanich, Surrey, Vancouver and Victoria, representing more than 55 per cent of British Columbia’s population, said in a statement that it “supports the transformational changes and recommendations proposed to modernize policing and enhance community safety across B.C. communities.”

It added: “We celebrate that the BCUMC reform recommendations submitted in March 2021 are reflected in this report. The outdated Police Act requires significant change to address the role of police with respect to the complex social issues that our communities face, specifically the increasing crises and incidents related to mental health and problematic substance use.

“The report highlights the urgent need to shift policing services from the current ‘police-respond-first approach’ for citizens with complex mental health issues, to a health-centred approach by improving coordination and integration of police, health, mental health and social services.

“The BCUMC has identified issues related to mental health, substance use and treatment as one of the most pressing issues facing BC’s urban communities and has consistently pursued a collaborative approach to solutions working with the Provincial government.  The BCUMC continues to advocate for urgent changes, including the introduction of complex care services and a call for alternative approaches for responding to mental health and substance use calls in our communities on a 24/7 basis.”

Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran, co-chair of BCUMC, said: “The need for a health-centred approach for responding to mental health, addictions and other complex social issues, which includes integrating mental health within the 911 dispatch system, were among the reforms the BCUMC suggested to the Committee. We are pleased to see these were accepted and are now recommended as necessary reforms for inclusion in a new Community Safety and Policing Act. We prioritize the safety, security and health of our communities.  We know that relying upon our policing services to fill an ever-widening gap where urgent social support and health care services are required is not working or appropriate.”

Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps, co-chair of the BCUMC, added: “Collectively, the Caucus Mayors have been seeking a new funding relationship for municipalities with the Province. Building on the MOU announced earlier this year between the Province and the Union of BC Municipalities, we are pleased to see this report also highlight the recommendation for a more fair and equitable funding model for municipalities in terms of policing costs.

“We look forward to ongoing discussion and to see the steps the Province will take on these recommendations that prioritize the safety of our residents, and the sustainability of our policing resources.”

To learn more, visit www.bcurbanmayorscaucus.ca.