COLUMN: Politics and policing are not a good mix

COLUMN: Politics and policing are not a good mix

The transition to a new Surrey Police force is now firmly in the hands of Wally Oppal, the former judge and attorney-general appointed by Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth to oversee the process. That means that any comments by Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum about the new police force should be ignored. It’s completely out of his hands.

McCallum had said in a recent interview “There’s going to be a period of time where we’re going to have both RCMP officers out there, and our own city police officers.”

The RCMP’s E division, which is based in Surrey and oversees all RCMP operations in B.C., said there is no agreement to do so. When Oppal was asked about whether there is a shadowing plan in place, he replied, “No, there isn’t.”

Asked if it could be done by mid-2020, he chuckled.

SFU criminologist Rob Gordon, who is following the whole transition processes closely, said of the policing transition, “I don’t think it is really down to McCallum now.”

He added that Oppal is in charge and is doing a good job of looking after all the many details.

This is good news for a lot of reasons.

While McCallum campaigned on replacing the RCMP with a city police force, and council voted unanimously at its inaugural meeting a year ago to begin that process, policing cannot be political.

Policing is paid for with tax dollars, and in Surrey it consumes the largest share of the city budget.

However, it is performed by police officers who are non-political, and far removed from any political masters. It must be that way. In jurisdictions where that is not the case, policing often involves corruption, bribery and many miscarriages of justice. Canadians do not want policing to even come close to that type of misconduct.

Because McCallum continually politicized the issue of policing, he faced resistance from the head of the Surrey RCMP detachment, from a large number of citizens and from members of council, including Coun. Jack Hundial, a former Surrey RCMP officer who was part of McCallum’s slate. While the three Safe Surrey Coalition members of council who have left the mayor’s slate behind departed for a variety of reasons, policing was one of the main ones.

Farnworth was well aware of all of these concerns when the request to move to a Surrey Police force landed on his desk in Victoria. That’s why he took his time in responding, and appointed Oppal to oversee the transition. Oppal has a wide variety of experience in legal, justice, policing and political matters, and there is probably no one in B.C. more qualified to take on this task.

He has identified training, recruitment, information technology, transition of active files and public confidence in the new force as being critical issues that the transition team must work on. The team met for the third time on Thursday (Nov. 7) and will continue to meet regularly. While Surrey is represented at those meetings, the Surrey representatives are staff members, not politicians.

There continues to be anxiety about how much the new police force will cost, but that is not directly up to Oppal’s team. Ultimately, council will decide on the cost when it agrees to the annual Surrey budget.

One thing that Oppal should consider, given the way this issue has unfolded, is that the new Surrey Police board should not be chaired by the mayor, as has traditionally been the case in B.C. The chair should be someone completely removed from politics. That is necessary in order to build public confidence in the new force.

Frank Bucholtz writes Wednesdays for Peace Arch News.

Just Posted

Councillor Doug Elford. (File photo: Amy Reid)
Elford to join Surrey Homelessness and Housing Society as a director

Fellow Safe Surrey Coalition Councillors Laurie Guerra, Mandeep Nagra and Allison Patton will be re-appointed to the board

A cyclist stops traffic to allow a gaggle of geese cross the road. (Tino Fluckiger photo)
White Rock man asks motorists to be mindful of wildlife after close call

Impatient motorists drives into oncoming traffic

Big Splash water park is located in Tsawwassen. (submitted photo)
Big Splash reopens Canada Day with changes to keep the water park ‘safe for everyone’

Executive Hotels & Resorts has owned and operated the attraction since 2017

Elgin Park Secondary students rally for climate change outside of their South Surrey in 2019. (Nick Greenizan photo)
City of Surrey set to host online climate-action panel

June 23 Zoom event to include speakers, question-and-answer period

(Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Surrey council moves to reduce parking along rapid transit corridors

This also targets rental housing developments in Rapid Transit Areas

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Chief Rosanne Casimir stands outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School after speaking to reporters, in Kamloops, B.C., on Friday, June 4, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Kamloops chief says more unmarked graves will be found across Canada

Chief Rosanne Casimir told a virtual news conference the nation expects to release a report at the end of June

A woman wears a vaccinated sticker after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. ranks among highest in world in COVID-19 first-dose shots: health officials

More than 76% of eligible people have received their 1st shot

A screenshot of the First Peoples Cultural Councils First Peoples’ Map. (First Peoples Cultural Council)
Online resource blends B.C.-Alberta’s Indigenous languages, art and culture

Advisor says initiative supports the urgent need to preserve Indigenous languages

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

An artists conception of the new terminal building at the Pitt Meadows Regional Airport.
Air travel taking off in B.C., but lack of traffic controllers a sky-high concern

There will be demand for more air traffic controllers: Miller

Canadian Armed Forces experts are on their way to North Vancouver after a local homeowner expressed worry about a military artifact he recently purchased. (Twitter DNV Fire and Rescue)
Military called in to deal with antique ‘shell’ at North Vancouver home

‘The person somehow purchased a bombshell innocently believing it was an out-of-commission military artifact’

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz have set their wedding date for February, hoping that more COVID-19 restrictions will have lifted. (The Macleans)
B.C. couples ‘gambling’ on whether COVID rules will let them dance at their wedding

Amy Kobelt and Tony Cruz pushed back their wedding in hopes of being able to celebrate it without the constraints of COVID-19

A plane is silhouetted as it takes off from Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C., May 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Report calls for airlines to refund passengers for flights halted due to COVID-19

Conclusion: federal help should be on the condition airlines immediately refund Canadian travellers

Most Read