2 min

Partnership policing

Gays want voice on policing centres

Credit: Gareth Kirkby

There has to be community involvement in choosing who sits on a future West End community policing centre.

That’s the conclusion of a small group of gays and lesbians who gave up a sunny Saturday afternoon Jun 4 to figure out a plan to take to the Vancouver Police Board.

The plan didn’t get completed at that meeting. But it did build on the thoughts of another, better attended emergency community meeting held on the same subject Apr 21. And a “steering committee” was picked to finish off the process and submit a report to the police board.

At issue is Vancouver police chief Jamie Graham’s proposal to reduce the number of community policing centres from 18 to approximately seven and then appoint only the chief’s picks to the boards of the surviving centres.

Under the current system, each policing centre is run by a not-for-profit society which involves the surrounding community in choosing the board of directors. Until recently, the provincial government funded half the cost of the centres. With that money ended, and insurance liability looming, Vancouver city hall is also pulling out of the deal.

The policing centre in the West End Community Centre is expected to close, as are the Yaletown and Waterfront policing centres.The Davie and Granville centres are expected to survive the cuts, but have expanded boundaries.

Opposition from the gay community, as well as volunteers involved in other community centres, has already caused the police board to delay the chief’s plans, the Jun 4 meeting was told. Some policing centres may stay open as late as November and the police board is open to ideas about how to govern the surviving centres.

The West End community should come up with that governance model, said participant after participant.

The key is a true partnership where the gay community, and other communities within the West End, can help decide police priorities, they said.

“A number of us are frustrated because police are not listening to our issues, our priorities,” said Ron Stipp.

“We want a partnership that is equal between the community and police to solve community problems,” said Jim Deva of Little Sister’s. “We want the police to say upfront that they want a genuine partnership with this community. Until then, we’re shooting in the wind.”

Added Vince Marino of PumpJack Pub: “That partnership doesn’t exist right now and the police don’t see it that way.”

But participants failed to decide whether the future board should be composed of representatives of major groups within the community-such as the Davie Village Business Improvement Association (BIA), West End Seniors Network and the West End Residents Association-or alternatively composed mainly of grassroots volunteers drawn from the community, including gay activists, seniors, street youth and binners.

Those issues have now been assigned to the new steering committee. Members include: Jim Deva, Vince Marino, Angus Praught and Jerry Toews.