How many officers does it take to shut down a soccer game in Surrey? Three, apparently.
Growing up, my brother and his friends would grab a soccer ball and head down to a local field to play a game or two on a nice day.
Just some friends getting together to enjoy the weather and each other’s company, and get some exercise while they’re at it.
The last thing they’d ever expect is to be booted off the field by law enforcement.
But that’s what happened to a group of men in Surrey last week.
A video posted to Facebook began making the rounds on the social media site and soon enough, reporters – including yours truly – took notice.
The video shows one bylaw officer and two cops telling a group of men to leave. You need a permit, they’re told. If you don’t like it, take it up with the city.
Say what? To absolutely no one’s surprise, the story exploded online.
Needing a permit to play a friendly game of soccer is ridiculous to pretty much anyone.
As it turns out, the city says this was a "miscommunication" and if the men were just playing a friendly game, they should’ve been allowed to stay.
I sure hope so. With that detail taken care of, I’d now like to address the fact that three law enforcement professionals were called in to deal with this.
Let’s deal with the bylaw officer first.
As a reporter, I’m constantly fielding calls and emails about a perceived lack of bylaw enforcement. Illegal secondary suites is probably the hottest topic.
Given that Surrey has a measly 31 bylaw officers to cover the entire city, hounding people for playing soccer games at parks seems like it would be the least of the department’s worries.
Jas Rehal, Surrey’s bylaw enforcement manager, tells me this officer was monitoring the location of the incident due to several calls about rowdy behaviour at the park.
Well, OK, that makes sense.
But kicking the guys off the field doesn’t.
Bylaws aside, the fact that two RCMP officers were called in to deal with this issue blows my mind.
We’re in the midst of a shooting spree – the tally has passed 40 in the last four months. And at a Whalley Community Improvement Association meeting Wednesday morning, the group called for police to target the issue of public drunkenness, which has been affecting local residents and businesses.
That’s why I was surprised to see two cops dealing with this issue – a soccer game.
Apparently, they were called by the bylaw officer.
Currently, the Surrey RCMP detachment has 703 officers. And Mayor Linda Hepner tells me Surrey has yet to see any of the 100 officers that the city’s been promised for this year.
What good are new cops going to do if they’re sent to deal with things like soccer games?
We’ve got way bigger problems.
Amy Reid can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org