Defund the VPD!

Letter-writing campaign

On December 10th, Vancouver’s city council will be asked to approve an annual budget for the Vancouver Police Department. The VPD budget has been dramatically increased in recent years and is now planned to reach $340.4 million, more than one-fifth of the city’s entire 2020 operating budget and up from $317.2 million last year. The 2008 police budget was almost half that, at $180 million per year.

For the past decade, city council has granted yearly budget increases to the VPD without review and without accountability. In turn, the VPD has furnished an ever-growing list of reasons for year-over-year increases, despite a steady decrease in crime over that same period.

Downtown Eastside groups (Vandu, CCAP, Pivot, and Our Homes Can’t Wait) have embarked on a community campaign to reduce funding for the VPD, and re-direct it instead to where it really matters: housing and community services. Last year, more than double the amount was spent on VPD than on community services and housing 

We know that this is a long-term campaign and this year we are focusing on reducing the overall increase and re-directing that money to shelter-rate housing.

Please share this video 

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=596343631175131&id=185651365140347&sfnsn=mo&d=n&vh=e

Filmed at a townhall at Vandu on November 19th, the video has community members talking about the impacts of over-policing.  “When do we ever see anything good come from them? Besides them wanting more. And they are always seem to want to pick on us when we are at our weak states, or if we’re alone, or if we’re not healthy.” – Anthony, VANDU

Thank you!

Sending your letter

To send your statement via email, make sure to send it to Vancouver mayor and city councilors directly:

Kennedy.Stewart@vancouver.caRebecca.Bligh@vancouver.caChristine.Boyle@vancouver.caAdriane.Carr@vancouver.camelissa.degenova@vancouver.caLisa.Dominato@vancouver.caPete.Fry@vancouver.caColleen.Hardwick@vancouver.caSarah.Kirby-Yung@vancouver.caJean.Swanson@vancouver.caMichael.Wiebe@vancouver.ca

Letters must be received by 9:30 am on Tuesday December 10th.   

Background:

City of Vancouver draft budget 2020:

https://vancouver.ca/files/cov/draft-2020-budget-five-year-financial-plan.pdf

Vancouver Police Department budget request 2020:

https://council.vancouver.ca/20191203/documents/spec20191203memo-vpb.pdf

Vancouver police want $340.4 million or more than one-fifth of the city’s entire 2020 operating budget

https://www.straight.com/news/1329386/vancouver-police-want-3404-million-or-more-one-fifth-citys-entire-2020-operating-budget?fbclid=IwAR3nztHmcwB5M84S4VGx3hHAKGvv7qCCO7nARNLIbECMJpFo9vHASF-fzqU

VANDU: As VPD budget spirals out of control, defunding police is our community alternative to drug war

https://www.straight.com/news/1332066/nathan-crompton-vpd-budget-spirals-out-control-defunding-police-our-community?fbclid=IwAR2kbFPyXuLaLHnsnvdV2677lsFHGYzqz_xjEEoKxsG06zApYx1_GH1tT-4

Letter-writing points:

  • Rather than increasing the funding for the police, that money be redirected to housing, community services. Could also be used for accountability (external audit, arms-length complaints investigation)  
  • Crime rate has been decreasing until 2018 but dipped up this year., shootings in the DTES being used to justify adding more funding although most common are crimes of poverty and minor theft 
  • Need to break down crime stats. Many 911 calls are officer-initiated: https://vancouver.ca/police/assets/pdf/studies/vpd-study-patrol-deployment.pdf
  • Recent budget breakdowns have listed items such as monitoring street vending, visiting safe injection sites, supporting homeless people moving into social housing, providing assistance to vulnerable women, inspecting SROs, and supporting homeless people — all functions better left to community services that receive less than a quarter of the funding the VPD does.
  • Mostly Indigenous people are incarcerated: https://www.straight.com/news/1094481/bc-prisons-are-filled-hugely-disproportionate-numbers-indigenous-inmates-stats-canada
  • Community members suggest that restorative justice instead. The VPD say they have restorative justice peer programs for kids – but restorative justice can be applied to adult offences as well
  • Special expense items have been used to garner more funding: a $700,000 drug processing facility, a new community policing centre in Strathcona, etc.
  • The vast majority of funding goes to street cops and police salaries. With dozens of extra police on the ground, the result is an increase in profiling, street checks, and negative police interaction.
  • Low-income and Indigenous people, drug users, women, two-spirit, queer, trans, and sex workers are the first affected by the trend toward overpolicing and underprotection. 
  • Policing in Vancouver is rooted in deeper structures of colonial dispossession and everyday governance of the land. Policing of low-income and Indigenous areas of the city is a historic extension of mounted police and other militias who paved the way for white settlement.
  • The VPD no longer gives out as many bylaw tickets for street vending, but officers continue to carry out confiscations of street vendors’ belongings; but now there is no paper trail—no bylaw ticket, no receipt of police interaction
  • VANDU is constantly hearing of people whose entire life possessions have been confiscated and discarded by the police. Places like Oppenheimer Park have been ground zero for this kind of heavy-handed but routinized approach to homelessness in Vancouver. 
  • The VPD claims that arrests for petty possession have decreased, but “shakedowns” continue at a steady rate. A shakedown is when a drug user is stopped and searched and their drugs and money are confiscated, again with no receipt or ticket. At the town hall, when asked how many people have experienced a shakedown, nearly the entire room lifted their hand. 
  • The VPD continues to conduct regular visits to safe injection sites in the DTES. These visits have had a chilling effect in the community and in some cases have pushed drug users away from life-saving harm-reduction facilities.
  • Police are increasingly being positioned as social workers. The VPD is now on the front lines of what should be a public health response. For example, the municipal fentanyl tax was earmarked to help the community fight the overdose crisis but is going to the VPD 
  • VPD officers are now a common feature of many of the mental health ACT (Assertive Community Treatment) teams. 
  • Over 2/3 of the work police did has nothing to do with crime
  • 2019 budget book (https://vancouver.ca/files/cov/2019-budget-book.pdf  page 173) states that the VPD “continue to visit safe injection sites and other organizations in the DTES and to engage and provide direct assistance to vulnerable women.” – work better done by other organizations 
  • The 2020 budget book (https://vancouver.ca/files/cov/draft-2020-budget-five-year-financial-plan.pdf starting on page 184) lists: inspecting SROs, training youth peer facilitators, participating in Indigenous community events, improving services for clients living with severe mental health and substance use issue“ – also work better done by other community organizations 
  • 2012 report indicated that institutionalized responses to homelessness were three times as high per person as the cost of housing and community supports. 
  • Last year, more than double the amount was spent on VPD than on community services and (non-capital) housing expenses

Red Women Rising: Indigenous Women Survivors in Vancouver`s Downtown Eastside, includes the following recommendations: 

http://dewc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/MMIW-Report-Final-March-10-WEB.pdf

  • End the policing practice of street checks; reduce the number of bylaw infraction tickets issued by police in the DTES; prohibit police from carrying and using all lethal weapons; develop guidelines to facilitate greater use of police discretion not to lay charges especially for minor poverty-related offences; and end the counter-charging and criminalization of Indigenous women who defend themselves or their children.
  • Commit to using non-incarceration and alternative measures especially for minor offenses committed by Indigenous women. Governments must also provide sufficient and stable funding to Indigenous communities and organizations to provide alternatives to incarceration including community- based rehabilitation, diversion, community courts, and restorative justice methods geared towards Indigenous women.
  • Repeal laws that criminalize or increase harm for Indigenous women in the sex trade.
  • End the criminalization of people who use or possess small amounts of illicit substances.
  • End the criminalization of homelessness by eliminating bylaw infractions and criminal charges for sleeping or tenting in public spaces, and end the displacement of tent cities.
  • Expand non-policing options for publicly intoxicated people, including civilian-operates 24/7 sobering centres providing appropriate care for Indigenous women.
  • An indigenous legal clinic in the DTES that can support Indigenous women in all criminal and civil legal matters including but not limited to family, criminal, mental health, and poverty law issues 
  • Fund a Bear Clan Patrol in the DTES that is led by Indigenous residents and based on Indigenous reciprocal responsibilities of safety, security, and kinship