The B.C. RCMP’s top cop is firing back at Surrey’s new mayor over comments he made linking the city’s most recent deadly shooting with the need for a new police force.
“(The) tragic shooting outside of a home in Newton is yet another example of the ongoing trauma and fear that are being inflicted on the communities, residents and families of Surrey,” wrote Mayor Doug McCallum in a statement following the killing of a 22-year-old man early Friday morning.
“This latest incident of deadly gun violence further emphasizes the need for the City of Surrey to have its own city police force.”
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McCallum went on to criticize “resistance” to a policing transition in the city at the provincial level, calling for the premier to “remove any road blocks at the Provincial level and help us make this critical transition proceed in the most timely and smooth manner possible for the people of Surrey.”
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On Friday evening, Deputy Commissioner Brenda Butterworth-Carr, who heads the B.C. RCMP, released a statement of her own — warning that McCallum’s comments risk making the work of police officers currently on the street more difficult.
“Statements like this risk undermining public trust and confidence in policing. With a homicide of this nature, people are already reluctant to come forward,” wrote Butterworth-Carr.
“Any erosion of public trust and confidence challenges our ability to solve complex cases with assistance from people who are often reluctant to participate in the first place.”
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Butterworth-Carr went on to state that the Surrey RCMP and Lower Mainland integrated police teams remain responsible for and committed to ensuring public safety.
“Until Surrey RCMP is no longer the contracted police service, our employees must be allowed to and will continue to police safely and effectively. I will not allow public confidence in policing to be undermined or eroded,” she wrote.
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth also responded to McCallum’s statement on Friday, denying the province was doing anything to hold up the transition to the Surrey police force McCallum promised in his election campaign.
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“No one is putting up any roadblocks,” said Farnworth. “We are prepared to work with the mayor. He has to be willing to work, too. A new police force isn’t created over the weekend, but the province is committed to working with the city as they move forward.”
Farnworth added that the province has funded anti-gang programs in Surrey and that it will continue to work to ensure residents feel safe.
Criminologist and SFU Professor Robert Gordon says Butterworth-Carr’s comments might be a bit of an exaggeration. Still, he sympathizes with the force’s frustration, adding McCallum’s comments were “wrong-headed.”
“Here in this case what we have is political expediency overwhelming policing efficiency and that is shameful and I’m glad to see that the province has finally woken up to this,” Gordon said.
Gordon says the next thing the province, McCallum and Metro Vancouver mayors need to wake up to is the need for an amalgamated approach to policing, something he’s been calling on for years.
“The real issue he is the need for a Greater Vancouver regional police service,” Gordon said.
Friday’s fatal shooting remains under investigation by the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team, and Butterworth-Carr said it is believed to be connected with the ongoing regional gang conflict.
—With files from Nadia Stewart and the Canadian Press