The cost of active citizenship: $100

As I was biking back from Home Depot (big weekend, a little Home Depot, a little Bed, Bath, Beyond) with some exciting new cleaning supplies, I happened to see two police officers poking around a truck/camper combo in the industrial area just south of the renovated Waldorf at McLean and Hastings.

Being nosy, interested in police, and interested in the homeless (this was clearly not a recreational vehicle, see background photo #1), I stopped to witness.

I watched the cops do their cop thing around the "suspicious" van, picking stuff up off the ground and pretending to write on the side of it (weird), shine flashlights in the windows (standard, questionable practice), knock on the door (good first step), etc.

"Mr. B***, it's the police," and so on.

No response. Big surprise.

One of them notices me, they poke around a bit more, and then they load up and back up towards me.Our pleasantries are brief. What am I doing? Riding my bike. Do I know that guy? No, I was just watching you guys. Do I have a driver's license? Now why would I need that?

"Because I'm doing a bylaw investigation, did you know you needed a bell on that bike?" Sigh.

I don't have to identify myself for just an investigation, I say. "Well, I'm giving you a ticket." And so it goes. Teaching point: You must identify yourself if a police officer is issuing you an appearance notice or ticket.

I give them my name and one of them recognizes it. "Mr. Eby, doesn't someone as politically connected as you know you need to be lawful?" The connection between an additional lawfulness requirement and my supposed political connectivity escapes me, but I say, "Certainly officer, that's true. I do need a bell."

A $100 ticket later and it is clear to me that police watching is, as many people have experienced, not without risks. But if we hadn't had police watchers, we wouldn't have heard the story of Robert Dziekanski, the face kicked guy in Kelowna (Buddy Tavares), the woman with MS pushed down on Hastings, and so many others across North America.

A $100 ticket for a missing bell as part of a "bylaw investigation"? Officers, you'll have to do better than that to dissuade the citizen watchers in this town. Accountability for police matters, at least as much as accountability to the bike bylaw, and maybe, just maybe, a little bit more.Visit for more information about Vancouver's low-income housing crisis

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