For the past 15 months I have had the honour of serving on the Special Committee on Reforming the Police Act.
This has been some of the most productive and collaborative work I have been a part of in my five years as an MLA.
The 100-page report contains an overview of what the committee heard from the 411 presentations, submissions, and 1,500 survey responses, a view of the committee deliberations on what we heard, and 11 key recommendations.
We heard consistently that British Columbians wanted our committee to be bold and recommend transformational change. That is exactly what we delivered. A new public safety act and the creation of a provincial police service are just two key parts of the transformation.
Through the hours of presentations and deliberations, it was clear that to rebuild public trust and confidence our current policing culture needs to be transformed. Policing services are fragmented, oversight is inconsistent, training and education lack, and the entire system is plagued by institutional racism.
I came away from the process with a new respect for the challenges facing police officers and our police services. As the police are responsible for every call that is not a fire or medical emergency, they have become our primary responders to most mental health crises. They are not educated nor are they trained to deliver mental health crisis intervention. In many ways, we need to better support the police officers who are serving our communities.
We heard that British Columbians want a focus on community security and public safety, not militarized police enforcement. When the government implements this report, we will see a different culture in public safety and policing that reflects in the values of our society, community, and neighbourhoods.
We will have a single, independent, civilian-led, accountability body. Indigenous communities will be able to choose their policing services.
Our committee had a broad term of reference with a focus on reform. I encourage the provincial government to begin this process and set it up for success for future governments as well.
As we have seen in New Zealand, transformation is possible. It will happen over multiple governments, and so it needs to be a project of the entire legislative assembly. Success will require collaboration and cooperation across all governments and society. It is a project we undertake together, and to this end I am hopeful the minister will appoint an oversight committee, to work with the ministry to not just oversee the transformation but deliver key public engagement aspects of the work.
Our committee talked to many jurisdictions around the world who are leaders in police reform, their accomplishments are encouraging, and I am hopeful that our legislative assembly will rise to this challenge. I am excited that one day soon people will be looking to the innovations of British Columbia and seeking our advice on police transformation and reform.
Adam Olsen is the MLA for Saanich North and the Islands.
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