A Message from the Officer in Charge – Summer 2020

A Message from the Officer in Charge
Summer 2020
Well, there is no doubt this will be a year to remember for all of us.

When COVID-19 became an urgent issue in March, we – like all of you – were navigating unchartered territory. Our Surrey RCMP team worked quickly to establish new protocols and initiatives to protect both our staff and the public. During the pandemic, our focus has been, and continues to be, on maintaining full frontline operational response capabilities.

Together with the City of Surrey, we established the COVID-19 Compliance and Enforcement Team, which is operating seven days a week. This team responds to COVID-related calls for service, and conducts outreach to ensure businesses, faith-based institutions and event venues are complying with current health orders. Overwhelmingly, we have seen Surrey residents and business owners in compliance with provincial health orders and the federal Quarantine Act. Where we have found non-compliance, the team has focused on education and guidance, which has proven to be very successful.

Then, on May 25, George Floyd filled our TV screens, Twitter feeds, minds and hearts. Scrutiny of police actions quickly reached an all time high in the United States, Canada, and around the world. The public rightly had questions around police use of force, body worn cameras, systemic racism, street checks, wellness checks, and more.

These issues stirred a deeply emotional response in communities around the globe. As police officers, we have a natural inclination to immediately ‘fix’ the problem. It was tempting to come out with statistics and information about how and why police deal with mental health calls or use force in some instances. But if we had done that, we would have missed the point. People are asking us to take a closer look at what we are doing and figure out what can be done better.

At the Surrey RCMP, we are now reviewing our bias-free policing initiatives and upgrading our internal training to expand on the history, demographics and nuances of the communities we serve. Over the past few months, I have personally spoken to many of our officers to encourage and empower them to employ the appropriate actions and attitudes towards any member of the public at all times, and to report those who fail to do so.

Externally, our Diversity and Indigenous Peoples Unit works to enhance our ability to connect with the city’s diverse communities, and our Police Mental Health Outreach Team provides a more holistic approach to mental health, addiction and homelessness issues with the involvement of community and health agencies. We recently participated in a Canadian Press story to talk about our Car 67 program, which responds to mental health calls in partnership with Fraser Health. You can read the story here: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/advocates-call-for-community-led-crisis-intervention-not-police-1.5630445.

Systemic racism is likely not a problem we can simply “solve” with a few changes, but one which requires continuous improvement, conscious attention and thoughtful action, not just today, but every day.

The challenges that 2020 has brought are difficult and even uncomfortable. But facing adversity can make us better citizens, better police officers, better neighbours. It can inspire creativity and conversation and, ultimately, change.

Assistant Commissioner Brian Edwards
Officer in Charge, Surrey RCMP

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