A database of deaths involving BC law enforcement shows an increase in police-involved deaths of civilians in the province in 2016, the third year in a row such an increase has been recorded. The database is maintained by The Georgia Straight newsmagazine, and journalist Travis Lupick, and uses information from the BC Coroners Service and the Independent Investigations Office of BC (IIO), the agency that examines cases of police harm to civilians in the province. The records account for people dying during interactions with police and in law enforcement agency custody. Numbers for 2017 are still being compiled and assessed.
Over the period of 2009 to 2013, reported police involved deaths were at 13 or 14 each year. In 2014, the number of recorded deaths rose to 16. There were 17 recorded in 2015 and 18 in 2016. The eighteen recorded deaths in 2016 represents the highest number recorded for a single year in the database, which traces back to 2003. In 2007 there were 17 deaths reported, the second highest number.
The database records show that the increase has been driven by the RCMP, which polices 150 municipalities across the province as well as serving as a provincial and a federal force. While many of those are jurisdictions are small towns, and several notable killings by police have occurred in small towns and in the north, the RCMP is also responsible for larger cities, including Metro Vancouver centers of Burnaby, Richmond, and Surrey. In 2012, four people died during interactions with RCMP officers, while the number rose to seven in 2013, six in 2014, 12 in 2015, then 12 again in 2016.
In terms of shootings, since 2006, there have been an average of 3.8 recorded fatal shootings by police each year. Total numbers for the database include deaths in BC prisons (omitting natural causes). Deaths in prisons continue to constitute a relative minority in the reported cases. The database suggests that many of the cases of reported police-involved deaths involve issues of mental health and/or substance use. Issues like race, and racism, and impacts of colonialism are not systematically documented.
There are no official recording and communicating procedures for documenting police-involved killings in British Columbia, nor are there in other Canadian provinces. This leads the public to believe police killings of civilians in Canada occur less frequently than they actually do. We have heard people express on numerous occasions the belief that police killings of civilians in Canada in single digit numbers each year—for the country as a whole. The reported numbers obviously do not include any killings of civilians by police that police do not report.
The database can be accessed at: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1aLNSF4Hkk9XdVKeuVU6ZrRO6GtSxT4t8TiMiQ6ptLrY/edit#gid=0