Councillor Brenda Locke says the city’s plan to transition to a municipal force would mean fewer officers for Sophie’s Place, a child advocacy centre dedicated to children who are victims of physical, mental or sexual abuse.
In February, city council endorsed a report that supported a “minimum of 11” officers from Surrey RCMP’s Special Victims Unit being stationed at Sophie’s Place.
“But the police report creating the Surrey Police Department now calls for just seven officers, with additional resources at ‘peak times’ coming from other parts of the proposed police department,” said Locke. “All this will take place with a new police force that will have fewer officers than our current RCMP detachment. I am deeply concerned that this lack of attention and solid commitment puts all of our children at risk. As a result, children who have already been victimized are now going to be re-victimized this time by a system and policing plan that doesn’t supply the police resources to protect them.”
The transition plan “fails children when it comes to supplying the necessary police resources to meet the increased caseload,” according to a press release issued by Locke Tuesday morning, which added that “since 2012, when it was created with leadership from then-mayor Dianne Watts, Sophie’s Place has set the benchmark for working with children who are victims of physical, emotional or sexual abuse.”
Locke said she was “proud to support the expansion of Sophie’s Place at the Centre for Child Development” in February because its “award-winning approach to working with children, police, families and social services has set a benchmark in British Columbia when it comes to helping children and investigating cases of child abuse and especially child sexual abuse.”
“The expansion has also allowed Sophie’s Place to increase the age range of the children it served,” Locke stated in her release. “Previously cases were limited to children newborn to 10 years. Last year, 183 children were part of Sophie’s Place and this year that number is expected to grow to more than 300, but it looks like the report on the proposed Surrey Police Department ignored Councils’ motions and what’s really needed to deliver services to the most vulnerable in our society. The report will increase the workload exponentially without any additional resources.”
Locke pointed to the fact that Surrey has the largest children and youth population in British Columbia, with one-third of them under the age of 19.
“The Surrey Police Transition Report outlines the creation of a police department with fewer officers than we have today, but at a greater cost, something that doesn’t make any sense at all,” Locke said in her release. “The idea that a new police department will be able to call on other sections within the department to help with child abuse cases when there are fewer officers overall is very troubling. This approach simply doesn’t meet the best practices for child abuse and child sexual abuse that I ran on to make Surrey a safer place, especially for children.”
In an emailed statement, Mayor Doug McCallum said “the information Councillor Locke is providing amounts to fearmongering.”
“Staffing levels for Surrey Police, just as it is now for Surrey RCMP, is determined by the Chief of Police,” the statement reads.
“The proposed staffing model in the Surrey Policing Transition Report is a starting point and officers can be moved and added to sections as deemed appropriate by the SPD Chief. It should be noted that under the new SPD model the 7 officers dedicated to Sophie’s Place would be complimented by and is part of a larger Special Investigations Section.”
McCallum stated that “Councillor Locke campaigned on and voted in favor of a city police force.”
“Not only has she broken her word to the Surrey residents who voted for her, but she is now dragging in Sophie’s Place and all the good work that everyone does there for political purposes. That to me is unconscionable and irresponsible,” the mayor added.