Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth says the Surrey Police Service’s recruitment efforts are not hampering investigations into this current spate of shootings by distracting officers, as was suggested by the National Police Federation which represents Mounties across Canada.
“That’s simply not the case,” Farnworth told the Now-Leader on Friday. “There’s no distraction from the work of IHIT or the Coordinated Special Enforcement Unit.”
On May 10 the NPF issued a press release calling on the provincial government to “Direct the Surrey Police Service to halt recruitment of active police officers in the Lower Mainland, including those from the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team, to an inactive potential future police service. Now is not the time to be removing scarce resources from active service in the Lower Mainland.”
On March 11, Deputy Commissioner Jennifer Strachan, commanding officer of the BC RCMP, wrote a letter to Surrey Police Service Chief Constable Norm Lipinski saying she received “numerous” complaints that serving RCMP are “receiving calls, at work, from Surrey Policing executives seeking their interest in retiring from the RCMP and joining the new Surrey Police Service.
“I want to share my concerns that these calls are coming in to colleagues via their RCMP phone numbers and during work hours,” she wrote. “A number have expressed their discomfort.
“I fully support you and your team in accomplishing the enormous task of recruiting new employees, but would respectfully request that your human resources team adjust their approach to avoid further complaints” Strachan wrote.
To this, Lipinski replied that the SPS was “not aware of anyone at the Surrey Police Service making the phone calls in such a manner as you indicated” and added “it would be helpful if you could provide specific details.”
Meantime, during a press conference call with reporters on Friday Farnworth said residents can expect to see more police on the road in the wake of recent shootings, which currently stand at 11.
“You will see an increased police presence in many areas,” Farnworth said.
He said the shootings and related homicide investigations are “very complex” and a big challenge the police are facing “ is not a resource issue.”
“They have the resources,” he insisted. “In many of these crimes, police have found out, a deceased victim for example is the main suspect in other murders and so that is a challenge, because the person who committed the crime has also become another statistic.”
Police departments are not working in silos, Farnworth said, but rather in a coordinated, collaborative effort to solve these crimes.
“The police and the province and the feds are all working together,” he said, bringing all tools available to deal with “this scourge.”
“Police are not going to let up. Police are going to be on this, and on this, and on this through every possible means. And the gangsters, as I said, there’s only two ways this is going to end. Either jail, or they’re going to be dead.”
Another challenge, he said, is getting information from people who need to report what they know to police. “They cannot continue to turn a blind eye.”
Farnworth met with police chiefs on Thursday to discuss drugs turf wars and retaliation shootings.
“They are absolutely, completely committed to suppressing this cycle of violence and bringing to justice those who are responsible. This is job number one, like, this is their top priority,” Farnworth said.
Also on Friday police chiefs and commanders released a joint statement on recent gang-related violence in the Lower Mainland, saying the level of their partnership in the region is “unprecedented.”
“The disregard for the safety of the public and the police that gang members continually show, highlighted by recent events, is unacceptable and we are doing everything we can to hold those responsible accountable” reads the statement, on behalf of 12 senior police officers. “Your safety is our number one priority and we will not waver in our relentless pursuit to prevent, disrupt, suppress, and investigate those who choose to involve themselves in gang and organized crime activities.”
The public’s role, they said, cannot be understated. “Your willingness to call police when you see something suspicious, or have information, could be critical in helping prevent someone from getting hurt or assist us in collecting crucial pieces of evidence. We want your help.
“Lastly, to the gang members, we know many of you are afraid, unsure who to trust, and fearful that you might be targeted next. You have an opportunity to get out. Contact police before it is too late for you and those who love you.”