Jurisdiction issues leave university RCMP out of Ono’s bias training commitments

President Santa Ono promised bias training for all public safety officers on campus in a June 1 message to the community. But the 18 RCMP officers on campus, however, are not under the jurisdiction of the university.

“[The] University Detachment operates under the RCMP Act and adheres to the BC Policing Standards,” said Constable Ian Sim, the University RCMP community relations officer, in an email.

A June 16 broadcast specified Ono’s wish to include the RCMP in discussions on campus security and safety. However, Constable Sim confirmed that as of July 16, President Ono has not been in contact with the RCMP regarding developing discrimination prevention policies.

“We are in constant contact with UBC, especially with campus security,” he said. “President Ono has not reached out to University Detachment and we do not know if he has contacted anyone at the BC RCMP [Lower Mainland District.]”

Kurt Heinrich, the senior director of UBC media relations, clarified on July 21 that Ono is “planning on contacting the RCMP detachment on Vancouver campus in the near future to discuss our relationship with them,” and that contact has already been established with the Kelowna RCMP.

In an email to The Ubyssey, UBC Campus Security Acting Director Ali Mojdehi said that “the RCMP is an independent agency and trains its members in accordance with its own policies.”

Currently, officers in the RCMP undergo intervention training annually, as well as “incident management courses,” according to Constable Sim.

“Training in crisis intervention and de-escalation is mandatory, with a focus on de-escalation in a crisis,” he said. “The RCMP’s bias-free policing policy is based on the principles of equality and non-discrimination. The RCMP does not target any individual or group based on their racial, ethnic or religious background.”

Statistics tell a different story: a database compiled by CBC reported that Indigenous people make up 15 per cent of fatal police encounter victims, while only making up around five per cent of the total population, based on data from 2000 to 2017. Black people make up even less of the population — around three per cent — but make up around 10 per cent of victims.

In March, a UBCO student filed a lawsuit against the RCMP alleging an officer assaulted her in her apartment building during a wellness check. At least four people have died during wellness checks conducted by the RCMP since April 2020, prompting national concern about use of force in Canadian police institutions.

Yet recent changes to RCMP provincial policies have loosened regulations on force. On May 1, the BC government announced that it had suspended requirements for retraining and requalification “to limit exposure to the [COVID-19] virus.”

Typically, officers must re-qualify every three years in order to use firearms, non-lethal weapons or police dogs. However, provincial governance has halted this policy, and will continue to do so “until at least July 1.” Officers whose permits have expired in or after May 2020 will not be required to retrain to use force until social distancing protocols loosen.

Constable Sim confirmed that as of July 6, the BC RCMP training division had entered “phase 1 to safely integrate training back for regular members.” However, at press time, a public update regarding requalification had not been made on the website.

UBC’s own process for initiating change “has just begun,” according to Mojdehi. For Campus Security officers, the university is searching for an external agency to conduct a review of anti-bias training and policies regarding race. This comes following a graduate student alleging racial profiling by Campus Security and a June 16 broadcast, in which Ono additionally promised “an external review of incidents, policies (and their application), practises and training within campus security … including the RCMP.”

At UBC, Campus Security employees currently undergo training with UBC’s Equity & Inclusion Office and outside contractors. Topics have included ethical investigative interview techniques, conflict de-escalation, Indigenous peoples’ histories and intercultural understanding.

Campus Security plans on continuing work with the Equity & Inclusion Office to identify an “appropriate training program,” said Mojedi.

“It’s too soon to say what changes will be made,” he said. “However, Campus Security will provide those details to the community when those decisions are made.”

This article has been updated with comment from UBC Media Relations.