Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner has wondered why the media keep calling her for comment on crime in her city.
“I’m not the sheriff,” she eventually told News 1130 last week, after diverting reporters’ calls to the RCMP for days in the wake of a dozen shootings in March.
Hepner’s defenders suggest it’s odd that the mayor’s thoughts would be sought as part of such reportage. After all, it’s the police who fight crime, not politicians.
Others might think it odd that the mayor has nothing to say. After all, it’s the mayor, the city’s most high-profile elected representative, who speaks for it and who guides civic policy, including policing budgets.
But, according to Hepner, everything is done and dusted – and that should be sufficient to address a distressing spike in shootings.
“I can’t do more than that which we are doing, which is getting those police on the ground, responding to the events, and actually doing some significant preventative work,” she said.
Perhaps Hepner is missing something here. Her office comes with certain obligations. Surely, one doesn’t spend such a great deal of time, energy and money making oneself a community figurehead without being willing to comment on concerns of that community.
Dare we suggest the message most needed now isn’t one of buck-passing, nor is it solely, as Hepner finally said Monday after three more one-a-day shootings in her city, that “there’s a lot of pressure coming from my office” to the RCMP.
What we need to hear is that our community is ultimately a safe one, and that such crimes will not be tolerated.
We need to hear that our civic leaders will not stop until perpetrators are brought to justice, to ensure our communities return to peaceful normalcy; that if there is reason to believe most of these shootings are targeted, we must be vigilant and ensure no innocent is caught in the crossfire.
And we need to hear that our mayor will mount pressure, not just on our local RCMP officials, but on their provincial and federal counterparts – as well as hers – to ensure safety on our streets and in our homes.
In short, we need to hear leadership.
The most respected politicians are those who are swift to offer words of comfort, that they can put our concerns in context and provide some sense that something is being done. This is what statesmanship is about.
No, our mayor is not the sheriff – but she is, as defined by our Criminal Code, a peace officer.
We need her to help keep the peace.