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