Surrey Police Service’s Chief Constable Norm Lipinski says the contents of the department’s first strategic plan for 2022 was “primarily informed” by a community consultation process that took place between June and October of last year.
But the 11-page glossy report is being criticized as bereft of substance.
“Through a public opinion survey, stakeholder interviews, and a series of focus groups, input was gathered from over 1,200 Surrey residents and local organizational representatives,” Lipinski writes, in introduction. “We also obtained feedback and ideas from our senior leadership team and the Board.”
The report was released to the public on Feb. 10. Paul Daynes, strategist for the Keep the RCMP in Surrey campaign, says it’s “extremely light on substance, I would say, almost to the point of being zero substance.”
“They’re very short on detail,” he told the Now-Leader. “I just think it’s more smoke and mirrors, to be honest with you.
“They are in the process of expending substantial amounts of tax dollars and there’s no detail. All we get is generalities and essentially a wish list and tired rhetoric.”
It’s the first such report since the SPS was established in August 2020. “Three goals were identified for 2022: develop SPS, develop our employees, and develop our community policing model,” Lipinski noted.
An accompanying letter signed by Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum, who is chairman of the Surrey Police Board, and also signed by its seven board members, states that “This implementation of this first strategic plan begins an important new chapter between the police and the community, one that puts an emphasis on local community-based policing, values diversity and accountability, and champions public safety.”
The report cites Sir Robert Peel’s nine principles of policing and notes that SPS is using the seventh principle to guide its operations and decision making, namely, “To maintain at all times a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and that the public are the police.”
Daynes takes particular umbrage with this portion of the report, given the controversial history of Surrey’s policing transition to date.
“A key Peel principle, as it applies to Surrey and every other community in the westernized world is there can be no policing in a community without the consent of the community to be policed,” he said. “There is no consent from the community.”
Ian MacDonald, media liaison for the SPS, told the Now-Leader that the strategic plan “will be more specific as it’s rolled out in each of the categories” and the current document is similar to those released by “most police agencies.”
“One of the challenges that we have of course is we aren’t currently the police of jurisdiction,” MacDonald said. “To the people who might say this is on the thin side, I can assure you it isn’t.”
“I think it serves a dual purpose. One, to obviously let people know what out plans are for 2022. In addition to that, it’s to continue the engagement with the community. We wouldn’t want to not put out a strategic plan until we became POJ (police of jurisdiction) because we wouldn’t be keeping people informed as to how we’re progressing and what we’re doing in that progress.
“A lot of it when we become POJ will shift in its focus to more of the operational stuff but at this point we can’t because we’d be treading on toes to do that,” MacDonald said. “Let’s say the Surrey RCMP were to identify their strategic targets for 2022, it wouldn’t be wise for us to then go ‘Okay, this would be our strategic target,’ because if there were any difference between the two they’d go well why aren’t you doing this, or why did they say this is important? There can only be one police of jurisdiction as it stands currently so that’s why we have to sort-of frame out what we’re planning on in 2022 and when we become the police of jurisdiction you’ll see a more robust operational component.”
Surrey council voted in 2018 to replace the Surrey RCMP with a city-made police force. The Surrey Police Service expects to deploy 175 more officers in 2022, bringing the total to 225 by the end of the year. They will be under the command of the Surrey RCMP.
Coun. Jack Hundial, who retired from the Surrey RCMP before he was elected, says it’s “ironic” that this report “actually looks very similar to the RCMP strategic report, first of all. It’s almost a mere copy of it. And as much as they try to highlight about local governance really you have a police board that doesn’t speak to all members of council.
“It’s filled with a lot of assumptions, really a lot of assumptions that don’t make any sense. You have assumptions about where staffing is going to be going, you have assumptions on their community engagement which really when you only engage a small part of the community you can write the report that you want.”
Hundial noted one of the “primary drivers” to bring the SPS in was to have a better public safety model.
“Coming out of the gate when you’re just copying what’s out there, it falls really short on that.”
Coun. Doug Elford, on the other hand, said it’s challenging to come up with a plan “when you’re not driving the bus.
“That’s kind of the challenge here. I think you’re going to see more meat and potatoes as we get further along in the process,” Elford said. “That’s kind-of my thought. They’re mandated to do this and I think once the service is fully established you’ll have more deep details.”
According to the SPS, its strategic priorities for 2022 are listed as Organizational Development, to be achieved by “creating a diverse and skilled organization with a focus on human resources, IT development, operational readiness, and risk mitigation.” Employee Development and Wellness is next, by “fostering a competent and resilient organization that emphasizes employee wellness and modern training practices.” Third on the list is “Community Policing Model Development: building a locally based community policing model that features a high-level of community input focusing on youth and Indigenous communities.”
The strategic report concludes with a statement that Surrey residents “can expect to see and hear evidence of our progress toward achieving our priorities in regular reports to the community, public Surrey Police Board reports, and through the SPS website and social media channels. Ongoing reporting will demonstrate our commitment to transparency and accountability.”