The Surrey Now-Leader published a special tribute to frontline workers in its Thursday, April 30th edition. This story focuses on Surrey RCMP. Click here to see the whole section.
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Surrey’s top cop Brian Edwards is no desk jockey. The Assistant Commissioner in charge of Canada’s largest RCMP detachment has been out patrolling with the front-line Mounties during this pandemic.
Edwards has hit the streets by himself, “going to calls” and also working alongside the front-line officers.
“I have booked out a car and been on patrol,” Edwards told the Now-Leader. “I think a couple of eyebrows were raised that have since been lowered.
“From that I can say I have personally observed their continued engagement, dedication to duty and response to calls and impact on crime, so I think it’s good to get out from behind the desk.”
|Chief Superintendent Brian Edwards is the Surrey RCMP’s officer in charge. (Photo: City of Surrey)|
Edwards spent a lot of time in general duty himself.
“I’m very comfortable out there and I think that’s one small thing that I can do to show that I’m out there as well and supporting them, because these are difficult times,” he noted. “We ask people to go out, on the front line, when they’re facing increased risk, aside from everything else, COVID. So I think for me to be out there is something to be expected.”
Edwards said policing in Surrey is going “really well” considering the circumstances. “We’ve done some re-alignment to ensure that we’ve got a high and strong presence in the community, and significant visibility.”
Edwards said that during this pandemic the detachment has ensured lots of coverage on front-line, general duty.
“Those watches are fully staffed.
“At this point in time I’m really pleased with how things have worked out, and the performance of the members in these circumstances, I couldn’t be more pleased with how they have stepped up as an entire group to continue to serve the community.”
Asked if anyone in the detachment has contracted the virus, Edwards replied that the RCMP does not disclose “where members contract, like in which detachments they contract.”
Corporal Elenore Sturko, spokeswoman for the Surrey RCMP, said Surrey’s detachment is “actually doing every well. We don’t have any issues in terms of our ability to continue policing. In fact, we have a very strong presence on the road right now.”
Policing during a pandemic presents special challenges, of course.
“It really does add a little bit to the risk,” Sturko said. “We have throughout the opioid crisis had to make interventions with people; it’s very common. Obviously with the COVID-19, and the closeness you need, it’s not something where you can intervene from two metres away.”
She noted, for an example, members of the police and mental health outreach team reviving a man who overdosed on April 19 at the Lookout shelter in Guildford.
“The staff had attempted to assist that individual with no result, so the officers were able to come administer Narcan to that person, who eventually was roused and taken to the hospital,” she said. “We’ve been giving out Narcan, unfortunately, quite a bit. And they do it without hesitation, of course.”
Even making an arrest can be challenging, as a person doesn’t have to have symptoms to be contagious.
“If people are sick, we’re still going. When people need us, we’re going to be there.”
Fortunately, the Mounties have always had access to gloves, masks and face shields.
“We’ve always been trained to use protective equipment,” she said. “Now we’re really putting those things into practise in a way that we haven’t previously done because the scale and potential for infection is different from those other things.
“Prior even to the Coronavirus being in existence, we always face the risk that we might come in contact with communicable diseases and viruses. We actually have a foundation of training that existed prior to the pandemic that helps us deal with a mitigate risks.”
Sturko noted that each call, each situation, is different.
“Even when you’re pulling over a vehicle, there isn’t any rule that says I have to lean one foot away from a person, you can still practise social distancing and make sure you’re taking all necessary precautions for the safety of the officer and for the members of the public as well,” she said. “So we just modify what we’re doing. Part of public safety isn’t only against things like violence, it’s also health, so we have to make sure we’re taking those precautions and everybody is taking a real ‘heads-up’ approach.”
Meantime, Sturko said, people have been leaving rocks painted with RCMP patrol cars and other “little tributes and thank-yous.
“We drive around neighbourhoods and people have signs in their yards, saying, ‘Thank you RCMP,’ and, ‘We’ve got this, Canada.’ It’s really inspirational.
“We’ve had lots of people reaching out, offering us food, offering to buy coffees, offering snacks and stuff like that, which is like really, really heartwarming and appreciated,” Sturko said. “It’s been really amazing to see so much kindness in the community.”