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Vancouver police board executive director no longer on job

Stephanie Johanssen served three years, seven months in lead role
The Vancouver Police Board won’t say why its executive director Stephanie Johanssen (far right) is no longer on the job.

The executive director of the Vancouver Police Board is no longer on the job.

Stephanie Johanssen, who led the board for more than three years, has been replaced by interim director Ted Bruce, who was appointed this month and will serve until a new person is hired in a permanent role.

Bruce would not say why Johanssen was no longer director.

“The questions regarding Stephanie are a personnel matter and we won’t be commenting,” he said in an email Tuesday in which board vice-chairperson and spokesperson Faye Wightman was copied.

A message left with Johanssen last week was not returned before this story was published. Messages left for three board members this week were also not returned.

Johanssen served three years and seven months as executive director through what were some turbulent times for the board, which sets policy for the Vancouver Police Department and oversees its $300 million-plus budget.

Controversies around police street checks, accusations of systemic racism within the department, the wrongful handcuffing of a Heiltsuk Nation man and his 12-year-old granddaughter, and the fight to restore $5.7 million to the police department’s budget were all on Johanssen’s agenda.

She also authored a report in July 2021 that included a series of recommendations from citizens and police on how to reduce hate crimes in the city and encourage more victims to report incidents.

'Apology ceremony' in Bella Bella

Most recently, Johanssen and several police board members attended an “apology ceremony” Oct. 24 in Bella Bella, where two constables who wrongfully handcuffed Maxwell Johnson and his granddaughter in 2019 outside a downtown BMO branch failed to participate.

The ceremony was part of an agreed settlement between the board, Johnson, and his granddaughter. Police Chief Adam Palmer and his deputy chiefs attended the ceremony, which was to be paid for by the police board.

Undisclosed damages were also paid to Johnson and his granddaughter. The settlement included an admission from the police board that the two arresting officers discriminated against the Heiltsuk members because of their Indigenous identity.

Prior to becoming executive director, Johanssen was an assistant to then-director Patti Marfleet. She then served in an acting role after Marfleet retired. Johanssen’s appointment became permanent in May 2019, according to her LinkedIn page.

Bruce, meanwhile, brings more than 40 years of experience in various policy development, planning and leadership positions in the public sector as interim director, according to a biography on the police board’s website.

Bruce’s career includes working at Vancouver Coastal Health, where he was executive director of population health and primary health care. He also served as the regional director of health systems development for the health authority.

At one time, he was interim executive director for the PHS Community Services Society, a large health and social housing organization that operates mainly in the Downtown Eastside.

Ken Sim chairperson of police board

Johanssen’s departure comes the same month that Ken Sim and a newly elected council were sworn into office on a mandate to hire 100 officers and 100 mental health nurses.

As mayor, Sim now replaces Kennedy Stewart as chairperson of the police board.

The board is currently comprised of six provincial government appointees and one person selected from city council. It is independent from the VPD and City of Vancouver, although the board’s executive director and executive assistant are paid via the police budget.

The board’s next public meeting is scheduled for Nov. 24.

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