Vancouver City Council moves to limit police response to issues around mental health, sex work and homelessness

Vancouver City Hall. A City Council committee passed a motion aiming to decriminalize poverty.

(CNN)Local politicians in Vancouver, Canada, are pushing to change its policing strategies, after its City Council passed a motion that would limit police response to mental health, substance abuse and other nonviolent issues -- working instead to fund a community-led initiative.

The council's Standing Committee on Policy and Strategic Priorities approved the motion, titled "Decriminalizing Poverty and Supporting Community-led Safety Initiatives," on Monday, after being introduced by Councillor Jean Swanson earlier this month.
"The City of Vancouver is committed to using an equity lens on social issues which include issues relating to police services," the motion reads, also noting that current policing practices disproportionately criminalize Black and Indigenous communities.
      The motion asks the police board to itemize the work they do relating to mental health, homelessness, drug use and sex work, with the associated costs. The plan then is to create "community-based harm reduction and safety services," with input from organizations such as Black Lives Matter and the Western Aboriginal Harm Reduction Society, according to the motion.
        The Vancouver Police Board has not made a public statement on the motion.
          The goal is to deprioritize policing as a response to these nonviolent issues. But a specific timeline has yet to be set, and the motion simply reads "as soon as possible."
          The move comes amid increasing calls to at least partially defund the police, following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor in the US. The money should instead be used to invest in communities, many activists have argued.
          Police officers, many have said, are not equipped to handle calls relating to mental health -- which was also addressed in the motion.
            "There is widespread recognition that police officers are routinely attending to calls that would be better dealt with by peer-, health-, social- and community- based programming," the motion reads.
            Vancouver isn't the first city to reconsider its policing strategies. Stateside, in Los Angeles, the City Council has moved forward with a plan that would replace officers with community-based responders for nonviolent calls -- similar to what Vancouver is doing.