Indigenous and civil rights groups have asked B.C.’s police complaints commissioner to investigate a significant racial disparity in the Vancouver Police Department’s use of street checks.
The Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association say Indigenous and black people are over-represented in the police practice, often referred to as carding.
During the checks, police stop a person, obtain their identification and record personal information.
The complaint is based on a release of data under a Freedom of Information request that shows 15 per cent of all carding conducted between 2008 and 2017 was of Indigenous people, yet they make up just two per cent of the population.
The police data also says four per cent of those carded were black, despite the population in Vancouver making up less than one per cent.
Chief Bob Chamberlin, with the B.C. Union of Indian Chiefs, says the disproportionate rate that Indigenous people are checked is “staggering.”
VPD Chief Adam Palmer released a statement Thursday afternoon, saying context is needed.
“A street check occurs when a police officer encounters someone believed to be involved in criminal activity or a suspicious circumstance, and documents the interaction. They are not random or arbitrary checks,” Palmer said.
“The VPD’s street checks are not based on ethnicity. … The VPD does not control where crime falls along racial and gender lines.”
He said the department will review the complaint and provide a response in the coming weeks.
The Canadian Press