Vancouver Police Board rejects colour vision complaint

The Vancouver Police Board rejected a complaint Thursday from a potential recruit who says he didn’t get a chance to become a police officer because he believes the force’s requirements for colour vision are discriminatory.

Kiren Gill, 28, has abnormal vision that prevents him from accurately seeing shades of colour but told the police board last month the deficiency wouldn’t prevent him from working as an officer.

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The board decided Thursday to accept the recommendation from the Vancouver Police Department that Gill’s complaint be dismissed and suggested he direct his concerns to the provincial ministry of justice, which sets policing standards in B.C.

“The VPD recruiting unit does not discriminate against people with colour vision deficiency,” said the report, noting an applicant must meet vision standards set out in what is commonly known as the Farnsworth D-15 test. “The VPD recruiting unit’s current practices in regards to visual acuity and colour vision requirements are fair, reasonable and comply with ministry standards.”

The report said the recruiting unit attempted to follow up with Gill and his doctor to assess his application but were unable to do so because Gill said he was travelling and studying overseas. The VPD subsequently closed his file.

“Detectives are required to consult with the ophthalmologist to assess the severity and whether it would impact the general duty of a police officer,” the report said. “In the complainant’s cases, recruiting unit detectives could not liaise with the complainant or his doctor for follow up.”

In an email to the Courier, Gill said he was disappointed with the VPD’s recommendation to dismiss his complaint. He said the VPD made inaccurate and contradictory statements regarding his availability, saying he returned a call and was told his application would be rejected because of his abnormal vision.

Gill said he never received a letter from the VPD but acknowledged that was probably because he had moved and didn’t provide the department with a new address.

“I did not even think to notify them of an address change since they had already told me my application would be closed due to my colour vision,” he wrote. “Otherwise, I most definitely would have notified them.”

Added Gill: “My dream is to become a Vancouver police officer and why would I put all this work into preparing and applying and then immediately ignore my application? It seems as though the report has tried to paint an unfair picture.”

In an interview last month, Gill told the Courier he could see colours but that a normal red would be a bit dark to him and acknowledged deciphering dark purple and blue can be difficult.

In his research, Gill said, he learned countries such as Ireland, England and Australia either modified or scrapped their vision acuity requirements. He noted Vancouver Fire and Rescue now considers candidates on a case-by-case basis.

“I was hoping that the VPD would review its standards and see that this requirement is discriminatory,” he said. “Instead, the report does not even attempt to address this issue and only inaccurately diverts responsibility away from the VPD.”

At the board meeting Thursday, Deputy Chief Warren Lemcke said Insp. Jeannie Yee of the recruiting unit has told Gill he could re-apply to the department. Follow up would then be done to determine whether his application would be disqualified because of his abnormal vision, Lemcke added.

mhowell@vancourier.com

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