Does Surrey need more Mounties?
B.C.’s top RCMP officer thinks so. The city’s new mayor and a majority of council does not, at least in 2019, as evidenced by their budget plan.
“We’ve asked for about 160 personnel, I can tell you that we definitely have the metrics, and the evidence and rationale behind that,” Deputy Commissioner Brenda Butterworth-Carr told the Now-Leader, “as to be very well able to speak to the necessity of it, within this current municipal government those discussions have occurred.
“And we’re also aware that that may be problematic navigating into the future, which can pose challenges certainly in the service delivery.”
Reporter Tom Zytaruk recently interviewed Butterworth-Carr and Assistant Commissioner Kevin Hackett, officer in charge of the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of B.C., discussing policing issues concerning Surrey and the province at large.
Zytaruk: How will E Division/RCMP officers at Green Timbers headquarters work with a new Surrey city police force? Will operations dovetail or will they be two solitudes?
Butterworth-Carr: This particular facility houses a variety of different units and so it’s completely separate from Surrey operations. Within this facility, we’ll continue on the way we normally do business.
RCMP E Division headquarters in Green Timbers. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Zytaruk: A new city police force would no doubt call upon you for expertise in certain areas, in this building, and I guess you’ll be working with them in that capacity?
Butterworth-Carr: If that’s certainly something that the mayor wants, that’s what that plan entails, then absolutely we would continue to do that. That would apply to our integrated units as well. At this point we’re not really in a position to be able to convey that because I haven’t seen the plan; I don’t know what that plan entails and I certainly know that it’s still being evolved, if you will, and the overall transition plan as well, and potentially feasibility study. I don’t know any of those specifics, but what I would say is that if there is still an opportunity for us to manage within the integrations we’ll do that and provide any area of expertise. We do that with all our independent colleagues now. So we’ve had a variety of requests, as an example, from Vancouver, or Abbotsford, or Delta, and we respectfully interact and collaborate on those requests.
Zytaruk: Does Surrey need more Mounties? The mayor and majority of council don’t seem to think so.
Butterworth-Carr: Dwayne McDonald, officer in charge of the Surrey municipal detachment, has presented on a variety of occasions to the previous mayor and council, and we’ve asked for about 160 personnel. I can tell you that we definitely have the metrics, and the evidence and rationale behind that as to be able to very well speak to the necessity of it. Within this current municipal government those discussions have occurred and we’re also aware that that may be problematic navigating into the future, which can pose challenges certainly in the service delivery.
Zytaruk: On Nov. 9, you released a statement in response to Mayor Doug McCallum’s statement that came just hot on the heels of a shooting here in Surrey. You mentioned, quote, “I will not allow public confidence in policing to be undermined or eroded.” How will you “not allow” that, and have you had an exchange like this with a politician before?
Butterworth-Carr: So my goal wasn’t to have any kind of exchange in a political environment, I certainly can see how that played out. My goal is this: I have to ensure that the people delivering the services in the municipality of Surrey can do so and that they’ve got my confidence in doing that. We need to ensure that people within the community themselves recognize that as the service provider, we’re delivering an exceptional service and we’re going to continue to do that until such time occurs that we may not be. When we think about the complexity of the investigations that we respond to, again, we’re already struggling in some of those cases with a variety of different witnesses that may want to come forward and interact with us or not, and so when you’ve got people in leadership positions making statements, it can be problematic. But again, first and foremost for me, it is about making sure that the public knows that we are responsive, we’re going to continue to respond and we take ourselves seriously.”
Zytaruk: How much blame, if any at all, should the Surrey RCMP shoulder for ongoing shootings and gang violence in this city? Is this a fair question?
Butterworth-Carr: I would say that no, as much as we certainly have had gang conflict, and there’s been shootings in Surrey, this isn’t an isolated issue to Surrey; this is something that we’ve been contending with provincially. I’m certainly going to provide my colleague, Assistant Commission Kevin Hackett, to provide that response because of his area, field of responsibility.
But first an foremost, we deal with this on and integrated approach. Right now the RCMP, we’re the regional police service in the Lower Mainland, we’re the provincial police service, we do that in integrated fashion, we’re well-known for leading our integrated units. But I think sometimes Surrey gets an unfair lens applied to it, if you will, based upon when it is something that is felt right across this province.
Hackett: It’s been a phenomenon across the country, for that matter. We’ve seen some of the larger centres, Toronto is struggling with increasing gang violence. It is a regional issue, as you know, Surrey is a growing, large metropolitan city. And as you grow, there’s going to be challenges around that growth. But this is a regional issue, a provincial issue, and that’s the way that we’ve tackled it in the past, that’s the way that we’ll continue to tackle it and we’ve seen some phenomenal success related to gang murders, conspiracies to kill, the apprehension of individuals that were just about to commit murders, that sometimes the public never hears about. That’s a result of increased collaboration with all of our law enforcement partners we work with, the RCMP-led CFSEU (Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit), the RCMP-led Integrated Homicide Investigation Team, those teams work in conjunction with whether it be Vancouver, Abbotsford, or with Surrey on specific violent acts, whether they’re ultimately murders or shootings, we have seen great success by working in that environment, through that regional approach sharing information, sharing intelligence and targeting and going after the most violent gang members that we can, and we’ll continue to do that.
Zytaruk: Okay, are you satisfied with IHIT’s clearance rate for cases in Surrey, the Lower Mainland, B.C.?
Hackett: I’m satisfied with IHIT’s clearance rate. I think what’s important to realize that when you’re talking about clearance rates, you have to look at it with the lens of comparing apples to apples, not apples to oranges. There’s some jurisdictions across the country that can clear a homicide because they have an informant or a source identifying who the suspect is, while in this province we clear a murder once they’ve been charged, and that’s a significantly higher threshold that’s expected from the men and women that work on these investigations.
Zytaruk: There’s a group out here called Anti Police Power Surrey, and they carry banners like “We need housing, not cops,” and “Invest in our communities Divest from the police.” What do you think about this, either of you?
Butterworth-Carr: What I would say is that we strive, and when I say we organize initially and you know, as a service provider, to ensure that we’re approaching all of our different services with a proactive, preventative approach so we’re looking for the multi-sectorial approach and I think that we’ve had incredible success in Surrey. As an example, look at 135A (Street). We had a group of individuals come together, led by the municipality and certainly Dwayne and his team had a vested interest in that, but when we have successful examples such as that we really want to be able to invest in things like community education, interactions within schools, affordable housing and certainly all those fundamental principles that anyone would want. And I think there’s a lot of merit in having an approach where you’ve got vested interest from the community in helping to solve some of these challenges.”
RCMP E Division headquarters in Green Timbers. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Zytaruk: And here we are approaching the end of 2018. How are things going for the RCMP in B.C.?
Butterworth-Carr: It’s been an incredibly dynamic year. My goal, certainly as the commanding officer, once we developed the B.C. RCMP plan a year ago was to be able to communicate broadly to all of our communities, to say this is what we’ve done. When we have feedback around accountability, transparency, I think this is a great mechanism to be able to provide that accountability, transparency, communicating the operational successes that we’ve undertaken this year.
Hackett: I think some of the priorities that we’ve been facing are violence, which we’ve spoken about, the opioid crisis, fentanyl, trafficking. We’ve seen tremendous success again in that integrated approach through enhanced communication, efficient, timely sharing of information and intelligence within the partners and then working together to target those groups that are causing havoc on the streets, whether it be through gang violence or through trafficking. We’ve seen success, we’re going to see continued success, I’m confident of that.
Zytaruk: So 2019, the year of the Mountie?
Butterworth-Carr: Yes, well, it’s also the year of front-line policing. We want to recognize front-line services as the specialty that it is. When you are in front-line, you are interacting with the public every day, every moment of your shift if you will, and the decision-making that goes with that is significant. That is something that we are definitely going to be showcasing.