EDITORIAL: Optics matter in SPS hiring process

Tone deaf response to valid concern voiced over inspector’s selection

It may be good enough for the Surrey Police Service, but is it good enough for the people of Surrey?

According to SPS public affairs and communications manager Sharlene Brooks, those hiring five new inspectors for the service were well aware that one of them – Jeff Metcalfe, a 24-year RCMP veteran – had just completed a 90-day driving prohibition for being impaired behind the wheel.

Brooks told Peace Arch News last week that the new inspector, currently divisional duty officer for BC-RCMP Criminal Operations, had made “a full disclosure of the circumstances.”

It didn’t raise any barriers to the hire, she said, adding the service is “more than satisfied” that Metcalfe will make a strong contribution to the SPS team.

Surrey council member Coun. Linda Annis is far from satisfied, however. In an open letter to the chair of the Surrey Police Board – Mayor Doug McCallum – she asks for a full explanation of the SPS hiring process. She noted frequently-voiced concerns of many regarding the absence of transparency, and community input, in establishing the force in the first place.

It’s hard to disagree with her. While Annis recognizes that we all make mistakes and deserve a second chance, she rightly notes that senior police officers will always be held to a higher standard. Hiring someone who has demonstrated such a serious – and potentially dangerous – lack of judgment calls into question the credibility of the entire organization, she said.

This news breaks at a time when the fledgling force – which many still believe may never get off the ground – desperately needs good optics, not bad ones.

A tone-deaf response to valid concern – coupled with a lack of openess about the hiring process – begs the question of whether the SPS even begins to comprehend what bad optics are.

City of SurreyPolice