Surrey Police plan puts vulnerable at risk

By August 13, 2019Kevin Diakiw, News

A significant population of Surrey will be direly affected by the city’s current plan to move to a Surrey Police force, according to Coun. Brenda Locke.

This morning, Locke, the former B.C. Minister of State for Mental Health, said the city’s transition plan calls for half the officers dedicated to those with mental health issues.

The current mental health team in Surrey is 21 officers, and Surrey is looking to cut that back to 10. The plan calls for “community partners” to streamline the process.

“That may be Vancouver’s solution, but they have significantly more health care facilities and resources,” Locke said in a release Tuesday. “It’s risky here because Surrey has not kept pace with the social and health care infrastructure needs of a city our size.”

Surrey’s mental health outreach team is in huge demand, Locke says, adding they attend calls such as domestic violence, complex mental breakdowns, suicide attempts, psychotic breaks, and the addicted.

Half of the population will develop mental health problems by the time they reach 40 years old, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association.

“Like with the reduction in policing resources for Sophie’s Place, (the Child and Youth Abuse Team) the Transition Report will leave our young population, vulnerable and at risk,” Locke says. “But no one is exempt, children to seniors and every age, income or cultural demographic. 

Lock said it’s “puzzling” how the transition report can claim the new police force will be able to replace Surrey’s mental health outreach team with such dramatic cuts to personnel.

“Now that the Mayor has eliminated the Public Safety Committee — in favour of his own handpicked Police Transition Committee — significant public safety concerns are being overlooked and genuine questions are being brushed aside,” Locke said. “This plan is no plan for Surrey.”

She thinks Surrey residents should be concerned about the Mayor’s direction of policing and public safety in general in this city.

“Something as important as policing and public safety needs to have effective, open discussion and healthy debate,” Locke said. “We need to raise the bar, get beyond politics, and go through the Transition Report line by line. Mistakes in policing have very real consequences for our vulnerable citizens and for the community as a whole.”

Locke is the second councillor to seriously criticize the city’s plan to move to a municipal police force instead of the RCMP.

Last week, Coun. Jack Hundial said there will be serious staffing shortfalls, particularly in supervisors, if the city continues on its current course.

The Police Transition Plan is currently in the hands of the province, where it requires approval from the minister.