A Cloverdale chamber of commerce event recently turned heads after emotional exchanges between some guests.
During a recent Cloverdale District Chamber of Commerce luncheon, guest speaker and Surrey Police Service (SPS) Chief Norm Lipinski shared with attendees details about the SPS transition, community policing, and what the new force will mean for Surrey residents.
After Lipinski’s chat, there was a short Q&A that included some questions from the floor. Some members from the group Keep The RCMP In Surrey (KTRIS) were in attendance and at times the Q&A session became heated.
KTRIS campaign manager Paul Daynes asked how taxpayers could have trust in the SPS board when “75 per cent of the meetings are conducted in camera?” He also lamented the fact that the open-portion parts are very short.
He then asked: “Why would anyone in Surrey have trust in an organization that is headed up by an individual (Mayor Doug McCallum) who is currently facing criminal charges?”
Daynes also wanted to know why Surrey residents should place trust in the SPS board when three members don’t live in Surrey.
Lipinski answered that some things at meetings have to be in-camera because the information being discussed is sensitive in nature and cannot be divulged publicly.
He said the open-parts are short for one reason.
“We just started. We didn’t have anybody on the street a year ago and now we do,” he said, adding that once more SPS officers are on patrol, the open portions of the meeting will increase in length.
In terms of Daynes’ questions about the mayor and the board, Lipinski said the province chooses the board and he has no control over anyone’s position on the board.
KTRIS member Chip Bowness asked about 40-millimetre sponge grenade launchers. “How will you (use) them against the citizens of Canada? Tell me how that works, please?”
Lipinski said they will use “less-lethal sponge rounds” in the launchers, which can be shot up to 20 metres. He said they offer an alternative to electroshock weapons, which have a range of about seven metres.
Bowness interrupted to say, “It’s a lethal round and unless you have highly-trained people, bringing a weapon like that in … I do not believe it is the correct thing to do … if you get hit in the wrong place, you die.”
An emotionally-charged, back-and-forth ensued between Bowness and fellow luncheon-goer Karen Reid Sidhu, Surrey Crime Prevention Society executive director.
After which Scott Wheatley, the Chamber’s executive director, pleaded with everyone to remain calm.
“Can someone tell me where the sponge round has killed somebody?” Lipinski asked. “Tell me when. They’ve been deployed numerous times.”
“They’ve been deployed and there have been deaths,” Bowness replied.
“I made my point,” Lipinski said.
“No you didn’t,” Bowness shot back.
Wheatley then stepped forward and thanked everyone for coming, ending the Q&A and the luncheon.
Before the Q&A, Lipinski gave a 15-minute chat over lunch. He started out by saying the most common question he gets asked is, “why did you take this job?”
“It suits my temperament,” he explained. “I enjoy building teams. I enjoy building organizations. I enjoy coaching, mentoring, and leading. And I enjoy policing.”
Lipinski said he’s served in four police departments and he loves the work, working with both police officers and community members. He also praised the RCMP and touched on their role in the policing transition process.
He said there are two main reasons Surrey will benefit from having its own police service.
“Number one, there is local accountability,” explained Lipinski. “What that means is that we report to a police board.” He said the police board is chosen by the province from among members of the community.
“They’re the ones that set the direction of a municipal police department. They’re the ones that approve the budgets. They’re the ones that set the policy.”
He said the second reason has to do with recruiting. When they hire new officers from a municipal department, the officers have usually been on that force for many years and have a lot of experience in city policing.
He said another advantage of a municipal force is that it is able to respond and adapt quickly to urgent needs. This responsiveness, he said, is key to good policing and covers three areas: equipment, technology, and the policing model.
In terms of equipment, he used the example of when the opioid crisis first hit B.C. and municipal departments just went out and bought naloxone and trained their officers right away.
For tech, he said the SPS will be studying the use of body-worn cameras. He also said they’ll look at bringing in drones.
For the policing model, he said having a local board is the key as the board sets the model for all policing in Surrey.
“That means ongoing consultation and problem solving,” he added. “Policing isn’t just about reducing crime, it’s also about community wellness. Most of the calls police officers go to have nothing to do with the Criminal Code of Canada—people that are in high-risk lifestyles, vulnerable sectors; it’s youths that are causing some trouble, but it’s not criminal, etc.”
He said the SPS will be pursuing a community policing model based on the consultations that will happen as the SPS is built up and they become the police of jurisdiction.
Ian MacDonald, media liaison with the SPS, told the Cloverdale Reporter later that through the SPS’s research there has been no instances of death in North America from the use of sponge grenade rounds.
He said the use of the rounds will offer SPS more options to disarm armed individuals.
“We would never deploy a tool without having our officers fully trained (on the device),” MacDonald said. “We think it will be a valuable tool for police.”
MacDonald said the rounds will allow SPS to deal with potentially violent situations more effectively because officers will have more time and a greater distance to asses, think, and act.