B.C.'s police complaint commissioner has recommended that the Vancouver Police Board develop a policy to reduce the number of tickets handed out for minor offences in the Downtown Eastside.
The ticketing complaint was raised by the Pivot Legal Society. In a letter to the police board in March, Pivot lawyer Douglas King said ticketing in the Downtown Eastside for offences such as jaywalking and panhandling was at an inordinately high level.
The board, in April, requested the Vancouver Police Department investigate the complaint and the force reported back in August. The department suggested the board dismiss the complaint, which it did in September. Mr. King, one month later, asked the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner to review the board's decision to dismiss.
On Thursday, Mr. King released the complaint commissioner's ruling, which said the police department's report was flawed, and called on the board to develop a policy aimed at reducing the number of tickets issued in the Downtown Eastside.
The ruling by Police Complaint Commissioner Stan Lowe backs a similar recommendation that was made at the province's missing-women inquiry.
"What we want to see is the missing women's recommendation put into a policy and that policy should reflect that specific ask, that enforcement be lowered in the Downtown Eastside," Mr. King said in an interview.
In a letter to Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, who is also chair of the police board, Mr. Lowe identified three shortcomings in the police department's report.
First, he noted the earliest year cited in the report for statistics on jaywalking tickets was 2008. He said that was the year ticketing was at its highest, making it a poor baseline for comparison. Mr. Lowe said a longer period of comparison, dating back to 2002, was required.
He made a similar finding for the number of pedestrians struck, calling for the release of more information.
Third, Mr. Lowe said the police report did not address the manner in which recommendations from the missing-women inquiry were encapsulated in policy.
Mr. Robertson, in a written statement, said he looks forward to discussing the suggestions with the police board.
"The police complaint commissioner's input could be constructive in our work to make the Downtown Eastside safer for all residents and to ensure the recommendations from the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry are fully implemented," the statement read.
Constable Brian Montague, a Vancouver Police spokesman, said public safety has been and will remain a priority for the department. He said the force is proud of its relationship with Downtown Eastside residents and will continue to build on those relationships.
In an interview, he said it would be up to the police board to determine whether it wants to take another look at the issue.
Mr. King said the "ticketing blitz" began in late 2008, in the leadup to the 2010 Games. He said a year-end report showed 1,264 municipal and provincial bylaw-violation tickets were handed out in December, 2008 alone. That was in comparison to 544 tickets in all of 2007, he said.
Mr. King said Pivot did not pursue legal action at the time because it was assured by police and council that widespread ticketing of the Downtown Eastside was not a priority.
In one instance, he said, an individual who was receiving a ticket for jaywalking accidentally dropped a tissue on the ground and received a second ticket for littering.