Vancouver’s Community Task Force on Policing and the city’s police chief said the police department is close to fulfilling 84 recommendations to improve its internal culture and policies surrounding officers’ use of force.
During the presentation Monday before the Vancouver City Council, the group also provided an update on its implementation of a body-worn camera program that’s estimated to begin in spring 2022.
The nonprofit Police Executive Research Forum was originally commissioned by the city to review the Vancouver Police Department in June 2019 following four police shootings within a short period, City Manager Eric Holmes said.
The group examined the department’s policies, training, documentation and data to identify areas of improvement. The city’s task force was created the following year to address the organization’s recommendations.
The report, which was completed in June 2020, offered 84 recommendations to reform the police department’s culture, policies and practices around officers’ use of force. Police Chief James McElvain said 74 of those recommendations have been addressed.
Seven of the remaining suggestions focus on creating an internal incident review board that would keep officers more accountable when using force, according to the report. It stated the board would provide opportunities to identify lessons to improve officer training and give insight on whether policies need to change.
One remaining recommendation relates to data collection to improve the department’s reporting of de-escalation incidences. This would also help the department track officers’ use of force, according to the report.
The remaining two suggestions depend on negotiations and bargaining with the Vancouver Officers’ Guild over the department’s camera program.
The body-worn camera initiative was fast-tracked by the city after a demand for greater transparency and accountability from Vancouver police. McElvain said the equipment is set to go through a pilot program. After the testing and evaluation process, the city will adopt policies and award the contract to a vendor.
“I think that the officers are excited for this opportunity,” he said. “This program will help add transparency and support the good work they do every day.”
During a community forum Monday, concerns regarding the camera program were shared with the city council.
Shareefah Hoover said the initiative turned into an “economic windfall” for government employees and criticized the police officer wage increase associated with the adoption of the program. She said the plan has “little to no teeth” and sidesteps the community’s vision for public safety as it makes further negotiations with the guild instead of including public discussion.
“Please make sure that the tail is not wagging the dog,” Hoover said.
The task force wants to support long-term impacts and maintain transparency from police by establishing an ongoing advisory group. Holmes said this would continue the discussion surrounding policing and improve the city’s confidence and trust in officers.
“There may be other voices that weren’t represented that we want at the table,” he said.
A “Community Task Force 2.0” would include the original group and the Chief’s Diversity Advisory Team, as well as include community listening sessions.
The report, community engagement and the task force’s materials used to evaluate policing can be found at beheardvancouver.org/taskforceonpolicing. The public can also view the police department’s quarterly reports that outline use of force situations at cityofvancouver.us/police.
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