bc-100915-police-chiefs

Police chiefs from across B.C. lined up to support the federal gun registry at the Vancouver Police Department headquarters in 2010. (CBC)

The two associations representing police chiefs in B.C. should be subject to freedom of information laws, according to B.C. Privacy and Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham.

Journalist Rob Wipond was the first to raise issue with the B.C. Association of Chiefs of Police after he tried to get some information about their role bringing license plate scanners into the province.

"The first thing I found was they really didn't want me to know. They didn't have a website. They wouldn't share their constitution or bylaws," said Wipond.

He ran into a similar problem when requesting information from the B.C. Association of Municipal Chiefs of Police. Both associations claimed they're private groups and not subject to access to information laws.

Wipond objected, arguing the chiefs are public servants and filed a complaint with B.C.'s information and privacy commissioner.

"They are signing contracts. They're setting police policy across the province. All these things are happening in secret," he said.

Commissioner Elizabeth Denham investigated, and agreed, noting the associations "exert significant influence over law enforcement policy decisions in B.C. without being subject to the same access laws."

Both associations are involved in developing policy connected with the justice and public safety ministries, police training and qualifications, road safety, and the chief coroner.

In 2010 the B.C. Association of Police Chiefs made a public appeal to MPs to save the federal gun registry.

Denham is recommending legislation declaring both police chief associations are, in fact, public bodies under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

"They should be subject to the kind of sunshine that access to information provides," says Denham.

B.C.'s  Justice Ministry says it's reviewing the recommendation.

With files from Keith Vass