Provincial policing standards

Provincial policing standards Opinion: Minister Bond on community safety

By Shirley Bond

Minister of Public Safety, Solicitor General and Attorney General

VICTORIA – As new provincial policing standards came into effect on Monday, Jan. 30, I want to explain how these standards will strengthen policing and our communities’ safety.

The Province is committed to enhancing the justice system and discussing our progress with British Columbians. This year marks the completion of all of Justice Thomas Braidwood’s recommendations from his two reports, including the creation of the civilian-led independent investigations office (IIO) and the introduction of new standards that apply to all police officers in B.C.

These are mandatory, provincewide changes to how police are trained, how they use force and how they interact with individuals in crisis.

Policing is a demanding job, where critical judgments must often be made in a matter of seconds. And when a police incident results in serious harm or death, naturally it raises questions about the standards for those judgments.

How police use conducted-energy weapons (CEWs) – commonly known as Tasers – has been an ongoing concern for British Columbians, so I want to be clear about how tragic incidents of the past have changed policing in this province.

As soon as we received Justice Braidwood’s report on CEW use in 2009, we directed all police, sheriffs and correctional officers to limit their use of CEWs to circumstances where there is imminent risk of bodily harm to the officer, the individual or other members of the public. Police agencies by and large began acting on many of the recommendations immediately while the Province developed the new standards. And we know that police have dramatically reduced their use of CEWs. In fact, police are reporting an 87 per cent reduction in CEW use since 2007.

We agreed with Justice Braidwood’s conclusion that overall society is better served by police who have access to CEWs, as long as that use can be restricted. He has reviewed the new standards to confirm they suitably address his recommendations.

Under the new standards, all police officers in B.C. will be taking our new crisis-intervention and de-escalation training, and refresher training will be required every three years. The course will help police respond effectively to cases involving intervention in a mental health crisis.

In addition, any officer who is issued a CEW must have taken CEW operator training. We have also developed an in-house use of force database so we can monitor compliance with the standards and maintain a clear picture of how force is being used throughout the province by our police. As well, a number of new standards go beyond Braidwood’s recommendations to address recommendations from the inquest into the death of Ian Bush.

Police officers face split-second life and death decisions all the time, but with the introduction of these standards, British Columbians can have confidence that the Province is doing everything it can to ensure that all police officers in B.C. – whether municipal or RCMP – have the training and direction they need to make those decisions.