Widow of Surrey murder victim doesn’t think new police force will make city safer

Click to play video: 'Surrey murder victim’s widow questions police plan'
Surrey murder victim’s widow questions police plan
WATCH: The widow of Paul Bennett, who was murdered in a case of mistaken identity, says Surrey's plans for a municipal police force don't make her feel safer and is criticizing its rollout. Jill Bennett reports – Jun 8, 2019

Nearly a year after her husband was murdered in a case of mistaken identity in the couple’s Surrey driveway, Darlene Bennett is still waiting for RCMP to find his killer.

But the widow isn’t convinced a municipal police force will be any more successful at stamping out the gang violence that shattered her family and made her feel unsafe in her community.

On the evening of June 23, 2018, Paul Bennett was leaving his home when he was shot multiple times, later dying of his injuries in hospital.

WATCH: (Aired July 19, 2018) Paul Bennett confirmed as unintended victim of targeted shooting

Click to play video: 'Paul Bennett confirmed as unintended victim of targeted shooting'
Paul Bennett confirmed as unintended victim of targeted shooting

The 47-year-old father of two was a nurse at Peace Arch Hospital and a beloved minor league hockey coach. He had no criminal record and had no ties to gang activity.

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“After careful examination of all the information gathered so far, our investigators believe that Mr. Bennett was the unintended victim of a targeted shooting,” Cpl. Frank Jang with the RCMP’s Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) said nearly a month after the killing.

READ MORE: Hockey coach and father gunned down in Surrey was not intended target: police

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Since that update in July 2018, no updates have been announced in the investigation.

Speaking to Global News Saturday, Darlene Bennett said reading the City of Surrey’s report on the transition to a municipal police force has only left her more confused about the future of policing in the city, especially when it comes to homicide investigations.

LISTEN: CKNW’s Jon Daly talks to Darlene Bennett about the Surrey police transition report

“I don’t see any way it’s going to increase my sense of safety,” she said. “The way this has been brought out to the public without transparency and without facts, it’s very hard to accept something you don’t really know the truth about.”

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The report lays out three options for how to manage homicide investigations under the new municipal police force.

The recommended path is to continue utilizing IHIT, with Surrey Police Department members providing support. That solution comes with an estimated $18.7-million price tag, the report says.

READ MORE: Surrey police transition report projects more than 10% rise in costs, no major officer increase

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The other two options are for Surrey to create its own homicide unit, or to employ the Vancouver Police Department’s services.

Both of those options cost at least $4 million more than staying with IHIT, with the new homicide unit topping out at $23.2 million.

Bennett believes the city has not done enough to showcase why sticking with IHIT is the best option, even though she agrees.

WATCH: (Aired June 3) Report on Surrey’s transition from RCMP to municipal police released

Click to play video: 'New information on Surrey’s transition from RCMP to municipal police'
New information on Surrey’s transition from RCMP to municipal police

“I just think the public deserves the right to know the facts, hear the pros and cons, have it laid out in front of them, what are we gaining, what are we losing, and make an informed decision,” she said.

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“I still can’t make an informed decision, because the facts just aren’t there.”

But the bottom line for Bennett is that a change in what force is policing the city does nothing to improve her sense of safety.

“This change isn’t going to make me feel any safer,” she said. “There’s so many more factors that play into safety and the violence going on in this city than simply a change in uniform.”

READ MORE: Surrey residents angered by lack of information on police transition as public consultation starts

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Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum ran for his job on the promise of replacing the city’s contract with the RCMP with a civic force, pointing to the high crime rate as a reason why the switch was necessary.

But the rollout has been met with anger from residents, who say they should have had more of a say in the transition beyond the municipal election.

Public consultation events, which began before the transition report was released to the public, have seen many participants confused and voicing frustration on the lack of clear facts.

WATCH: (Aired May 23) Surrey residents get first chance to comment on city police force

Click to play video: 'Surrey residents get first chance to comment on city police force'
Surrey residents get first chance to comment on city police force

Those events do not include a chance for residents to voice their concerns to council in a public forum setting, which Bennett thinks is necessary to ensure citizens get their input.

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McCallum has dismissed calls for a referendum on the issue as well, saying it’s “not part of the democratic process.”

Bennett said the questions surrounding the new police force need to be answered properly to ensure it’s what Surrey needs and deserves.

READ MORE: Surrey’s mayor says he would release police transition report ‘today’ if province allowed him

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“That’s what I’m doing this for, is for my kids,” she said. “They deserve a better world.

“What happened to Paul should never have happened. I can’t change it. But if I can make a difference and speak out, and hopefully it doesn’t happen to someone else, then that’s what I need to do to make a better place for [my children]. Another family can’t go through this again.”

— With files from John Daly and Jill Bennett

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