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Policing in BC: Fundamental Questions Answered

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Police Structure in the Region

a. Different types of police forces (e.g., municipal police, RCMP in non-municipal areas).

There are fourteen municipal police departments in British Columbia in addition to the RCMP.

There are also several integrated units (municipal and RCMP members working together) that work on regional issues (homicides, gangs, stolen vehicles, sex crimes)

b. Specific roles of each police force.

The fourteen municipal police departments are responsible for providing police services to their respective municipalities. The RCMP have a blend of responsibilities. Some municipalities have contracted the RCMP to work for them (North Vancouver, Richmond, Burnaby and others). The RCMP also are responsible for working in the remote communities in the province.

Roles and Responsibilities of Police Officers

a. Primary duties of police officers.

Protect life and property

  • Enforce the law

  • Apprehend Offenders

  • Keep the peace

b. Specialized units and their functions 

  • Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (portfolio is the BC Gang Conflict)

  • Integrated Road Safety Unit (traffic enforcement)

  • Integrated Child Exploitation Team (child sex abuse, child sex trafficking, child pornography)

  • Hate Crime Task Force (hate crimes against ethnicities and marginalized groups)

  • Integrated Sex Predator Observation Team (specifically targets sex predators)

  • Integrated Gang Task Force (interdiction on criminal organizations)

  • Integrated Technological Crime Unit (cybercrime)

Police Accountability and Oversight

Mechanisms in place for police accountability, including the role of oversight bodies

There are three independent entities that oversee police accountability in the province:

  • Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPCC) who ensures that the municipal police officers are held accountable pursuant to the Police Act. The OPCC receives and oversees complaints about municipal police officers (not the RCMP) in BC.

  • Civilian Review and Complaints Commission (CRCC) is an independent agency that examines complaints against RCMP members (not municipal members)

  • Independent Investigations Office (IIO) investigates occurrences where there has been serious harm or death as a result of the “actions or inactions” of a police officer whether on duty or off duty (this applies to all police officers in the province – municipal and RCMP)

There are other mechanisms that involve police oversight, such as:

  • Police Boards

  • Human Rights Tribunal

  • Coroners Inquest

  • Civil litigation

Police Committees and Civilian Oversight

a. The role and function of police boards and committees, how they are formed, their functions, and their impact on police policy and community relations.

Police boards and police board committees only apply to municipal police departments. They have four key functions:

  • Employer for all staff

  • Establishing policing priorities and policies

  • Financial oversight

  • Service and policy complaints

b. Opportunities for public involvement in police oversight.

All regular agenda meetings for all municipal police departments are available for the public to attend. These meetings include:

  • Police board meetings

  • Finance Committee meetings

  • Human Resource Committee meetings

  • Governance Committee meetings

Legal Framework and Rights

a. Overview of the laws governing police powers and conduct:

  • The BC Police Act governs municipal police officers in BC. The RCMP Act governs all RCMP officers in Canada.

b. Basic legal rights of citizens during interactions with police:

The legal rights of citizens during interactions with the police depends on the specific situation. For example, in general terms:

  • A person operating a motor vehicle must stop their vehicle upon the direction of a police officer and state their name and address

  • A person does not have to speak with a police officer unless they are under investigation for an offence

  • Upon arrest, a police officer must inform the suspect of their rights under the Chart of Rights and Freedoms. Every person has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure pursuant to section 8 of the Charter.

Complaints Against Police

a. Process for filing a complaint against police officers.

For municipal officers, complaints can be made to the OPCC through a variety of mechanisms:

  • Online complaint form at the OPCC website:

  • Calling the OPCC at 1 877 999 8707 or 1 250 356 7458

  • Calling the respetive police department or attending in person to fill out a form

For RCMP officers, complaints can be made to the CRCC through a variety of mechanisms:

b. Roles of oversight bodies like the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPCC) and the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP.

For the OPCC: The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPCC) provides ways to voice your concerns about the conduct of municipal police officers or departments in British Columbia (BC). The OPCC is an impartial agency—independent of police and government—that oversees municipal police misconduct complaints and investigations in 15 jurisdictions. The police investigate complaints about misconduct, the OPCC adds accountability and transparency by ensuring investigations are thorough and fair.

For the CRCC: The CRCC is an independent agency. Created by Parliament in 1988, the Commission ensures that public complaints made about the conduct of RCMP members are examined fairly and impartially. The Commission receives complaints from the public and conducts reviews when complainants are not satisfied with the RCMP’s handling of their complaints. The Commission is not part of the RCMP.

Let’s Work Together

500 Terry Francine Street 

San Francisco, CA 94158

Tel: 123-456-7890

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