The “sensational media,” the inner-workings of the RCMP and the hazards of the job were some of the some topics discussed at the Coffee with a Cop event in South Surrey last Wednesday morning.
In a series of events scattered throughout the city this week, RCMP invited every-day residents to meet with local officers to discuss, or ask questions about policing in the city.
Peace Arch News sat in one of the discussions, which included Ocean Park residents Tara Sketchley, Allan Johanson and RCMP Sgt. Chan, who didn’t want his first-name to be published.
After their discussion, Johanson told PAN the reason for him attending was to get to know the officers responding to incidents in South Surrey. He also made note of “fear-mongering,” specifically mentioning TV news.
“Yes, there are a lot of shootings in Surrey, it’s a serious thing. From what I see, people have this sense of fear, afraid of everything. South Surrey is a very safe place for people, the perception is that it’s not,” Johanson told PAN.
He then took issue with media’s reporting after a 15-year-old girl was grabbed and groped by a man on her way to school in Cloverdale the day before.
“Stranger danger,” he said, “gets blown out of proportion.”
“It’s incredibly rare… When it comes to actual attacks on kids, 95 per cent of the time it’s people they know,” he added, stating that a family member or family acquaintance is the usual perpetrator.
“The way the media portrays stuff, the percentage gets imbalance… The vigilance is in the wrong place.”
He said it’s challenging to educate parents about the danger of random attacks because it’s an emotional topic.
“How can you get real information to them in a way that they won’t dismiss it or feel that you’re being insensitive?” he said.
During conversation with Sgt. Chan, Sketchley mentioned a time when her Apple Watch accidentally dialed 911. She told the dispatcher it was a mistake, but nonetheless an officer responded and searched her home to ensure nobody was in danger.
Chan said he’s been on those calls before, and the protocol is to ask the residents if they have any weapons or dogs in the house. There have been circumstances, Chan said, where he’s had bad luck when it comes to dogs. Not with the dog itself, but with what the dog has left behind.
Thanks to all who joined us for "Coffee with Cops" – it was great to connect with you over coffee & conversation! pic.twitter.com/BqCeVZRniO
— Surrey RCMP (@SurreyRCMP) October 19, 2017
“Of course, every time we go to a place with dogs, there are land mines all over the place,” he said, adding that one time he asked the resident for a hose to clean off his boot.
Sketchley made mention of a South Surrey/White Rock Facebook page, which acts as a public forum for people living in the area. One discussion on the page that she wanted to bring to Chan’s attention was that involving a string of vehicle break-ins in the Crescent Beach area. She said the discussion quickly turned racist, with some residents blaming people “not from this country” as the culprits.
Sketchley, who worked as a police officer “in another life,” told Chan she talked to another local officer – who was raised in the Semiahmoo Peninsula – about the break-ins and was informed that local residents were committing the crimes, not recent immigrants. Chan agreed.
The trio discussed how officers overcome the language barrier in the city. According to findings in the 2016 census, about 33,000 people cannot speak English in the city and 240,700 residents have a mother tongue language other than French or English.
According to an 2016 RCMP report, the Surrey detachment has a combination of 320 regular and auxiliary members that could speak a total of 45 different languages. In addition, the detachment has 88 municipal support staff that can speak 24 different languages.
Chan said the detachment has a diversity of officers that can speak a number of languages. Those officers, he said, will get dispatched to the scene to assist the responding Mountie.
Sketchley and Johanson agreed that the Coffee with Cops exercise was a worthwhile experience.
A few dozen people and about five officers attended the event at Moka House Coffee and Bistro (16051 24 Ave.).
Other events were held at The Rustic Rooster (5723 176 Street) on Oct. 13, Cuatro Coffee (9014 152 Street) on Oct. 17, and Espresso Cafe (7330 137 Street) on Oct. 19.