British Columbia

Poster campaign seeks complaints against two VPD officers

Posters printed by Pivot Legal Society asks if people have been harassed by two patrolling officers.

Posters printed by Pivot Legal Society asks if people have been harassed by two patrolling officers

Over 100 of these posters were distributed within an hour at a Downtown Eastside kiosk. (Pivot Legal Society/Twitter)

The Pivot Legal Society has launched a poster campaign aimed at soliciting complaints about two officers involved in a raid of a Downtown Eastside cannabis kiosk last week.

Pivot's lawyer Anna Cooper says the move was not done in retaliation for the raid last Friday in which two officers seized cannabis products from a kiosk set up at the Downtown Eastside Market.

Organizers of that kiosk said they were distributing products to opioid users as a treatment option.

Cooper says the poster campaign was launched because Pivot workers began hearing complaints about the two officers after videos of the raid surfaced online.

She said people have complained they have been harassed by the officers.

The group printed dozens of posters — which features a photograph of the officers — asking community members to reach out if they have been harassed by either of them.

"We went down to the Downtown Eastside [on Tuesday] to meet with community and hear more firsthand just so we have a clear picture of what people's concerns were, and we received resounding feedback that these officers are problematic and endangering people," she said.

Cooper says Pivot, a legal advocacy group, has now received dozens of complaints ranging from allegations of harassment to allegations of physical assault. 

A sample of product seized by police from the kiosk last Friday. Police described 'two plastic bottles of unknown powder.' An organizer of the kiosk said the product was kratom, a plant sometimes used for opioid addiction treatment. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

A formal complaint

The group said it plans to file a formal complaint with the Vancouver Police Department next week. Cooper she hopes the officers are temporarily removed from the neighbourhood once the complaint has been lodged.

At a press event on Wednesday, the Vancouver Police Department defended its raid on the cannabis kiosk, and said it is aware of the poster campaign.

"They are in the execution of their duty," said Const. Jason Robillard, in reference to the raid. "We are a public office so you can take our picture, you can post it."

Robillard said he was unaware if the two officers had ever been subject of a formal complaint.

Union critical

The Vancouver Police Union criticized the poster campaign. President Tom Stamatakis said the province has a robust oversight process, and a widely distributed poster campaign could incite greater hostility toward the officers.

"[I] don't think it's fair to the police officers who are now exposed and subjected to a lot of hurtful and offensive comments," he told CBC News. "It's very disappointing."

Stamatakis said he knows the two officers in question, who regularly go out of their way to help local residents in crises.

"On the one hand, if you try to maintain some order so that the neighbourhood is safe for everybody, you're criticized," he said. "On the other hand, if you don't do anything, and the neighbourhood becomes more chaotic, you're also criticized.

"It's not fair to the officers who are trying to do their best in a very challenging situation," he said.

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