Pubdate: Tue, 30 Aug 2016
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2016 Times Colonist
Author: Cindy E. Harnett
Page: A3


The Victoria-Esquimalt police board last year rejected the B.C. police
complaint commissioner's recommendation that the city establish a
clear policy to assist officers on policing marijuana

Instead, Victoria opted to develop a regulatory framework around
marijuana dispensaries. The proposal to prohibit medical
marijuana-related businesses unless permitted through the rezoning
process will come before a public hearing on Sept. 8 at 6:30 p.m. at
City Hall.

The commissioner's recommendation was one of seven the office made as
a result of complaints registered with his office. They form part of
the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner's 2015-2016 annual
report, released on Monday.

It shows 1,230 police complaint files were opened in B.C. from April
1, 2015, to March 31, 2016, a 14 per cent increase over the year
previous year. Of those, 530 were registered complaints from the
public about police conduct.

The office attributes the increase to a jump in "monitor files" that
mostly track cases in which civilians were injured - the top cause
being dog bites.

Over the year, 777 allegations - which can include those from earlier
years - were concluded. Of those, 406 were unsubstantiated, 50 were
substantiated, 130 informally resolved, 88 discontinued, and 103 withdrawn.

Of the cases reviewed, there were also seven recommendations to police
boards in 2015-2016.

One of those recommendations was made to the Victoria-Esquimalt police
board after Pamela McColl, who speaks for a group called Smart
Approaches to Marijuana Canada, complained to the commissioner's
office that the Victoria Police Department had allowed illegal
medical-marijuana dispensaries to flourish.

The complaint said the department was failing in its duty to maintain
law and order by failing to shut down all marijuana dispensaries in

The report says the Victoria and Esquimalt police board concluded that
no additional policy was necessary.

However, commissioner Stan Lowe reviewed the matter and recommended
"that a clear and objective policy to assist officers in the exercise
of their discretion and discharge of their respective duties be created."

The board again concluded that no additional policy was

Deputy police commissioner Rollie Woods said the matter was left in
the hands of the police board.

"We'll see what happens down the road with the forthcoming change in
legislation," said Woods.

The federal government has said it will legalize possession of

The Victoria Police Department said on Monday it must liaise with the
police board before commenting on the issue.

Victoria city clerk Chris Coates said three-tiered regulation focusing
mostly on prohibiting all marijuana dispensaries, but including
marijuana-related businesses, has been in the making for more than a

Overall, Saanich saw the number of files opened about its department
more than double to 120 in 2015-2016 from 59 in 20112012. Woods said
that's mostly due to questions and concerns about the process, rather
than complaints. "It's just a blip," Woods said.

There were 132 files opened in Victoria, up from 113 in 2011-2012,
eight in Oak Bay compared to three, and five in Central Saanich
compared to 10 the previous year.

The RCMP have a separate complaints process.

To be substantiated, complaints against the police must constitute
misconduct under the Police Act, be filed within one year of the
occurrence, and not be frivolous or vexatious.

Sometimes a complaint is best resolved by an alternative dispute
resolution. In this scenario, the focus is on repairing and
maintaining a positive relationship between the police and the public,
said Lowe, in the report.

It's a process the commissioner will view as his legacy when he leaves
office, said Woods.

"About 60 per cent of all complaints are flagged for resolution," said
Woods. The office would like to see more cases resolved this way.

The alternative dispute resolution - which may involve an apology, for
example - is often more successful, said Woods, and allows the public
to participate in a "more meaningful way."

"Our goal is to lead the country in the alternative dispute resolution
of police complaints," the report says.

Meanwhile, on Aug. 1, the office assumed jurisdiction for oversight,
under the Police Act, of complaint investigations involving special
municipal constables - including jail guards and paid or unpaid, on
duty or off-duty, auxiliary and reserve officers.

There are about 400 such special municipal constables in

"They have a higher level of accountability to the public now," said
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