Head of Vancouver Police Union shares 'F*** the DTES grifters' image on Twitter
The president of the Vancouver Police Union is facing backlash for a social media image he shared over the weekend that reads, "F*** the DTES grifters."
Ralph Kaisers' Twitter post was a response to two other images shared by the Defund 604 Network last week showing a banner hanging over the Georgia Viaduct.
That banner, hung after the Vancouver Police Department released a widely criticized audit of social services, said: "F*** the VPD, all power to the DTES."
Kaisers posted a doctored image of the banner two days later, which he said was provided by an anonymous citizen. Below the line about "grifters," the doctored banner read, "power to the working class."
Dozens of people responded to Kaisers’ tweet, most slamming the union president’s decision to fire back at the original post. Some called for his resignation.
“This is beyond the pale,” wrote Meaghan Duthie. “Is this how you build relationships (with) the DTES community?”
CTV News has reached out to Kaisers to ask what the doctored message means to him, and why he decided to share it with the public. This story will be updated if a response is received.
Some who work in the Downtown Eastside felt Kaiser's decision to engage with the post in that way risked deepening divisions in a neighbourhood grappling with serious life-and-death problems.
"I just feel like it's trying to pit the community against each other," said Sarah Blyth, former park board chair and co-founder of the Overdose Prevention Society.
"Everybody's struggling right now so everybody's upset, and I just think he needs to rise above it."
Given the power held by police – including a limited ability to use deadly force – some critics argue it's vitally important that departments accept criticism and accountability.
And while some of that criticism may be broad and even unfair, Blyth argued that engaging in "Twitter flame wars" does nothing to promote reasonable discourse, or help the people police are paid to serve.
"Ralph in particular, but all of them need to be better than that. Like, grow up a bit," Blyth said. "It's weird that they snap back the way they do. It's not professional – it seems very personal."
Public tensions ran high in the lead-up to the 2022 municipal election, which saw many candidates focusing their campaign messaging on the city’s overlapping problems of crime, homelessness and drug use, and during which Kaisers' union controversially decided to endorse a mayoral candidate for the first time ever.
Now that the new ABC Vancouver-led council has started their work at city hall, and with David Eby being sworn in as B.C.'s next NDP premier later this month, Blyth said she's hopeful all the government agencies, non-profits and charities with a vested interest in helping the troubled Downtown Eastside neighbourhood will work together to achieve their common goals.
"It's time to stop with all this politics," she said. "Everyone knows that elections get a bit heated. The election's over now. Endorsements don't mean you run the government. So now we've got to work together – everybody does – to make a better city for everyone, because a lot of people are suffering."
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