In the latest issue of Focus Magazine, Rob Wipond has an excellent article about the British Columbia Association of Chiefs of Police (and its sister organization, the BC Association of Municipal Chiefs of Police). He’s been covering this issue diligently for a couple of years. Now the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner is taking a serious look at whether the BCACP and the BCAMCP should be listed as public bodies for the purposes of responding to Freedom of Information requests.
Here is an excerpt from Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham’s letter:
In my reflections on this issue to date, it appears that the policy argument in favour of such a recommendation is based on two related considerations.
The first consideration is the important public role that the Chief Constables and the Associations play in our society. A Chief Constable occupies a central and very important public role. That role also appears to be quite unique because each Chief Constable operates within a statutory employment relationship in which he or she nonetheless enjoys and asserts greater operational independence than one might find in an ordinary employment scenario.
Where, as here, Chief Constables operating pursuant to a unique employment relationship have considered it necessary and desirable to associate, assemble and speak collectively through the Associations they have created, and where government and others treat the Associations as the focal point for contact with the Chief Constables on matters of public policy, it may be suggested, that the Associations should be treated under FIPPA as public bodies in their own right.
The second consideration is more practical. It suggests that from a records coverage perspective, the appropriate level of transparency of Association records can be achieved for FIPPA purposes only if a member of the public can request current and historical records from the Association itself, rather than relying on what might be piecemeal and incomplete records held by individual Chief Constables at any given time (assuming that the “custody or control” test is met in those situations).
Having raised these points for your consideration, I wish to make clear that I have not formed any final views, and am suspending judgment, on what if any public policy recommendations I should make until after the period for comment is closed.
Any person with an interest in commenting on this issue will have until the end of business on February 14, 2014 to do so. Please note that all stakeholder comments submitted in response to this request will be made publicly available.
Is transparency in policing important to you? If so, please contact the Privacy Commissioner and let her know your views as to whether these organizations should be “public bodies” for the purposes of applying the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA). No matter what your view, your input is needed and welcome. This opportunity does not come up often. In fact, these organizations have been around for more than thirty years, and this is the first time there has been a serious conversation about adding them as public bodies to FIPPA.
You can your comments via email or by regular mail to:
Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner
Mail PO Box 9038, Stn Prov. Govt, Victoria BC V8W 9A4
A month ago, I filed my second Request for Review with the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia regarding the University of the Fraser Valley. I am trying to learn about the RCMP University Research Chair and the UFV Centre for Public Safety and Criminal Justice Research. These efforts have been made pursuant to Sections 4 and 52 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA).
Pretty much everything you need to know about this situation is described in Section 8(g) of my complaint:
“I believe the University is in possession of documents described above, but they simply do not want to give them to me. The records in question provide a legal framework for significant funding and sponsorship agreements between the University and various public and private partners. If the documents were truly missing, their absence would undermine the integrity and credibility of most of the criminal justice research conducted by the University during the past seven years.”
Order F13-07 came out today from the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner. It sets the Provincial Capital Commission straight on how to apply the Freedom of Information and Privacy Act. Here is a summary of the decision:
A journalist requested records related to the Provincial Capital Commission’s request for proposals to lease the CPR Steamship Terminal Building in Victoria’s inner harbour. Information was withheld under ss. 13(1), 15(1)(l), 21(1) and 22(1) of FIPPA. The adjudicator found that the majority of the information withheld under s. 13(1) was not advice and recommendations, so it must be disclosed. Regarding s. 15(1)(l), the public body failed to establish the disclosure of architectural drawings could reasonably be expected to harm the building’s security, so they must be disclosed. Regarding s. 21(1), there was no evidence of harm that would result from disclosure of the withheld financial information, and the adjudicator directed that it be provided to the applicant. Finally, the adjudicator ordered disclosure of some of the information that had been withheld under s. 22(1) because it was either not personal information or because disclosure would not be an unreasonable invasion of third-party personal privacy.
My personal view is that the approach taken by the Provincial Capital Commission was over-the-top. They incorrectly applied sections of FIPPA in an attempt to limit public access. For heaven’s sake, they even argued that some information had to be withheld because its disclosure could help terrorists attack the CPR Steamship Terminal.
This order will be a good wakeup call for a few other public bodies in the CRD (you know who you are). Congratulations to both the journalist and the media organization for diligently pursuing this.
I’ve filed a “Request for Review” against Esquimalt with the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner.
This is in regard to an access request I submitted to the Township of Esquimalt on July 6th. I asked for a copy of the RCMP proposal received by Esquimalt in response to its RFP for policing services.
Esquimalt denied the request.
In a nutshell, their position is that they “cannot release the requested report in its entirety, or reasonably sever exempted information to disclose any part of it” as the proposal is exempt from disclosure under sections 12, 13, 15, 16, 17 and 21 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
These sections of FIPPA deal with serious matters including Cabinet confidence, government relations, the investigative techniques used by law enforcement, the financial and economic interests of various public bodies, the ability of the government to manage the economy, trade secrets and other issues.
My position is that Esquimalt does not genuinely believe the proposal is exempt, nor do they believe that harm will result if the proposal becomes public. If this were the case, Esquimalt Council never would have passed an in-camera resolution asking the RCMP to release its proposal.
Another concern is that the Township has informed me that it will not release any information without an actual Order from the Commissioner. Often these “Request for Review” disputes get resolved through mediation with the OIPC. However, after a statement like that, it is difficult to believe that Esquimalt will participate in mediation in good faith.
The Township of Esquimalt is charging $200 in access fees to look at the minutes and agendas of the (now defunct) Esquimalt Police and Law Enforcement Advisory Board. I’ll post them here when I get them. In the meantime, here is the list of municipal police boards in British Columbia who post their minutes online, for free: