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New West police board told to hire ‘expert’ after cops accused of racial profiling

A New West resident says it was a street check, while police called it an investigative detention
The New Westminster Police Department has been accused of racial profiling through a street check. The NWPD called it an "investigative detention." NWPD photo

B.C.’s Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner (OPCC) has recommended the New Westminster Police Board take more action regarding a complaint filed by a man who says he was racially profiled by local police.

This includes the hiring of an "expert" with no police affiliation to review police policies.

Jovian Radheshwar, a New West resident who also teaches in the department of political science at Douglas College, was stopped by NWPD officers on July 27 while he was out for a walk.

The officers asked Radheshwar for his identification and if his name was “Abdul.”

The NWPD has said this was an “investigative detention” as part of a search for a suspect.

Radheshwar says this was a “street check” and that he was racially profiled. He filed a complaint with the police board but it was dismissed in a letter to Radheshwar.

Radheshwar then wrote the OPCC asking it to review the police board’s response to the complaint.

The OPCC has now written to New West Mayor Jonathan Cote and the police board saying it should take “further action.”

“Dr. Radheshwar advised that he disagreed with the characterization of the encounter, that the procedures of the New Westminster Police Department (NWPD) were a license for aggressive policing, and that the Board was biased as evidenced by the Board interchangeably referring to itself and the NWPD as one entity,” writes Andrea Spindler, deputy police complaint commissioner. “The Board appears to have relied solely on a review completed by the NWPD in arriving at a decision to dismiss Dr. Radheshwar’s complaint. The review by NWPD concluded that their policies regarding street checks and investigative detention follow relevant BC Provincial Policing Guidelines and current case law and that all frontline NWPD were provided training on the new Street Check Policy. Having had the opportunity to examine the Board’s decision and the request for review, I am of the view that the Board may benefit from a review of those policies by a consultant, expert or organization independent of the NWPD and police more generally.” 

The OPCC letter concludes by recommending the police board “take further action by retaining expertise independent of the NWPD, to review relevant policies, practices and training materials identified in the September 23, 2020, report prepared by the NWPD relating to investigative detention and use of street checks. The stated goal of the review should be to ensure that those practices and policies are consistent with cultural safety best-practices and address the needs of Indigenous and racialized persons who may come into contact with the NWPD. I further recommend your retained expertise have no prior affiliation with any police agency.” 

Radheshwar recently filed complaints with the BC Human Rights Tribunal over the incident, including against Cote.