VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — After hearing from hundreds of speakers tell their stories about interacting with Vancouver Police, city council voted unanimously Tuesday on a motion urging police to shift their priorities — and their budget.
“Our current model of policing isn’t working. In particular, it’s not keeping Black and Indigenous communities safe, people who use drugs safe, sex workers safe, and many others,” says Coun. Christine Boyle.
She says support for the motion to shift police funding and focus away from responding to mental health emergencies and social issues shows Vancouver is ready to try something new.
“This was an important step in council making a direction clear, and the community making a direction clear to council in terms of where we need to be going,” she says.
While Boyle explains police were supportive of some parts of the motion, including tracking resources spent responding to mental health and poverty-related issues and consulting with community groups, the VPD was less supportive of the call to redirect funding from police to community and social services.
“That’s the conversation we need to be having, and, I think, the steps we have ahead,” Boyle says.
She notes some speakers called for the implementation of a 24/7 emergency response focused on mental health and deescalation.
“For instance, when you call 911, along with fire safety, ambulance, and police, there might be an additional option of a service that can come an meet people’s needs that isn’t armed police,” she says.
Last year, the VPD responded to more than 5,000 mental health calls and continue to do so.
Boyle says she’s seen underfunding of important social services and policing has had to fill gaps and therefore increase the resources allocated to dealing with calls for service to respond to social issues like mental health crises, drug use, and poverty.
“This conversation that we’re having … is really about reassessing and rebalancing our approach to all of these issues.”
The motion also called for ongoing communication with organizations into how the city can support future and current community-based harm reduction services.
Read the full report:decriminalizing poverty and supporting community-led safety initiatives