Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke got a frosty reception from the Surrey Police Board on Nov. 30 when it met virtually, with her at the helm as its new chairwoman.
She was sworn in on Nov. 24. Cheney Cloke, who was acting chairwoman until Locke took over, asked Locke at the outset how she intends to fulfill her oath.
“I have a concern regarding the oath,” Cloke started. “So chair Locke, you publicly state that you’re against the SPS in the transition, and the work of this board. May I ask how you plan to fulfill your duties as chair, recognizing that you have signed an oath that states you’ll be honest and impartial to perform your duties as chair?”
Locke said it was a “fair question.”
“As you know, this is a predicament that can be for anybody who sits in the chair between being wearing the two hats, whether we’re a mayor or we’re the chair of the board,” Locke said. “Certainly that is something I’ve contemplated a lot but I think that the Act understands that, understands that there will be tension and I do understand my own responsibility to declare conflict when I believe my conflict is in that place.”
To that, Cloke replied, “Ok, but I do disagree with you on that and I would like that documented in the minutes.”
The public part of the meeting ran for about 50 minutes, before the board went into an in-camera, or closed session. The next board meeting has been scheduled for Jan. 25.
“Patience is the word for me, and a little tolerance for everybody’s position as we move forward. Public safety, public confidence, public safety and public confidence in policing is paramount," Wayne Rideout, asst. deputy minister and director of public services, tells SPB.— Tom Zytaruk (@tomzytaruk) December 1, 2022
During the session that was open to the public, the board heard from Wayne Rideout, outgoing assistant deputy minister and director of public services, who served for 35 years in the RCMP – with much of that in Surrey – before his time with the public service, which he’ll be leaving on Dec. 15. Executive director Jamie Lipp will oversee the transition until a new director of police services is appointed.
“We will not presuppose an outcome and it is important that we be prepared for all outcomes that result from a decision,” Rideout said. “We are alive to the many competing challenges and I think it’s incumbent on us all to recognize that this is really uncharted, unprecedented circumstances that we find ourselves in.
“I would appreciate all of you just being patient to the degree you can,” he said. “I think we all have to be sensitive to the various pressures that both the city faces, the SPS face, the RCMP face, the minister faces, and I think we simply have to recognize that we’re in a time window that is unprecedented. Patience is the word for me, and a little tolerance for everybody’s position as we move forward.
“Public safety, public confidence, public safety and public confidence in policing is paramount.”
Board member Elizabeth Model asked if he thinks Surrey has enough policing resources at the “front line” at “this point in time, currently.”
Rideout replied that the transition has created an “ebb and flow, but as of today I am confident in the information that I have in front of me that you are at adequate, effective levels of policing.”
“Respecting municipal authorities, the minister has indicated that he will give consideration to the city’s transition reversal plan,” Rideout said.
Public Safety Minister and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth wants to see that plan by Dec. 15.
Meantime, Rideout has requested from the RCMP a “detailed re-staffing plan” by Dec. 22 that must take into consideration current vacancy issues “across all RCMP lines, and it must have clear measures to ensure that vacancies across all business lines are not further exasperated.
A report is also expected from the SPS by Dec. 22, he added.
Rideout said the city’s reversal plan, the RCMP’s re-staffing plan, the SPS report, an update on readiness, recommendations from the director of police services and the police services team “will ultimately support the minister in making his decision.
“Certainly on this matter of critical importance a decision must be well-informed and must be timely,” Rideout told the board. “To this end, the minister has shared his view that he would like to be in a position to communicate a ministerial decision as soon as possible early in the new year.”
Meantime, public and police safety must remain the top priorities at this “critical” time. Surrey Police Service officers make up about 25 per cent of the overall Surrey RCMP policing needed, Rideout noted.
“Given the type of deployments that have occurred in the transition so far, Surrey Police Service officers make up even a larger percentage of officers carrying out frontline policing duties. Surrey Police Service officers’ service will continue to be required no matter what the ultimate outcome is.”
Lipinski told the board the SPS has 315 sworn officers and 60 civilian staff for a total 375 employees.
“Out of those 315, as of today, we have 188 on the front line,” he said.
Cloke noted Nov. 28 was the SPS’s first-year anniversary for having “boots on the ground” and sent out a “huge congratulation.”
“You and your team have been doing a fabulous job and super-proud of the team, thank you.”