As the Surrey Police Service continues to roll out and with its leadership team already in place, Upkar Tatlay says it missed its chance to be a leader when it comes to diversity.
“We parade around how diverse Surrey is ad nauseam. Like, look at the Somalian community, our urban Indigenous community, the highest percentage of Black people (in B.C.), the highest percentage of youth we have in our community, look at our South Asian community and it’s just a litany of individuals and community groups we talk about and how wonderful their communities and cultures are, but now is the time to make sure those communities have voices,” said Tatlay, who recently resigned as president of the Surrey Crime Prevention Society following similar comments he made to national media.
His resignation was announced in a statement on the SCPS’s Twitter by executive director Karen Reid Sidhu.
Mani Deol-Fallon replaces Tatlay, who resigned after a May 4th interview on CBC where Tatlay said the Surrey Police Service needs “to do a better job” in reflecting the diversity of the city.
“We need to really drill down and get into the granular details about what those positions reflect. What I’m hoping is these aren’t just cursory hires, that they’re reflected in leadership,” he said.
Days later, in the same tweet introducing Deol-Fallon as the interim president, the society tweeted this statement: “Recently, Mr. Upkar Tatlay publicly shared personal statements that were not made on behalf of Surrey Crime Prevention Society. We sincerely apologize to our community partners. Surrey Crime Prevention remains committed to collaborating with its partners to enhance safety, and we will continue to reflect and honour the diversity of the City of Surrey.”
On Wednesday (May 19), Reid Sidhu told the Now-Leader Tatlay’s resignation happened at a board meeting after his interview on TV.
“He decided to resign for personal reasons as stated in his letter,” Reid Sidhu said.
Meantime, Tatlay said his intentions in first bringing up the issue of diversity in policing was “simply to draw attention to an important issue that’s vital to the entire community. I hope people don’t perceive it to be (only) important for South Asians or it’s (only) important for Indigenous or it’s important solely for women. These issues around diversity are vital to the entire community.”
He said there are “endless amounts of data and research that shows the positive link between an organization or firm’s financial performance and its diversity composition.”
“It’s not just limited to the SPS, it’s rampant everywhere. The only thing with policing is that a new policing model, whatever we’ve created or end up with, it’s our chance to walk the walk for the first time. We can be a regional, if not global, exemplar of policing done right,” noted Tatlay.
“They need to read the room. Everyone is talking about how policing can be done, what reformations need to be made, reforms need to be made, what changes we can make so it does serve the community. Well, this is our chance and it seems we’ve fumbled it in our leadership hires.”
But Tatlay said this is “in no way a direct criticism” of those who have been hired to the SPS already.
However, Surrey Police Service Deputy Chief Constable Jennifer Hyland said the senior executive team, consisting of 17 people including the chief, deputy chief, superintendents and inspectors, is “actually really, really diverse” but that it’s an “unfortunate story that maybe hasn’t been highlighted.”
She said those 17 positions are “65 per cent diverse,” with three who are Indigenous, two who are South Asian, one who is Japanese and one who is Iranian. She added there are four women also in the senior leadership team.
“If you look at other organizations or policing organizations, that’s a fairly high-diversity formula for the senior ranks.”
She added that in lower ranks, the Chinese, Korean and African-Canadian communities are also represented.
“When I look at the list, do we have somebody who represents everybody? No, not yet,” she noted. “But we are building to a police service of 850 and we’re at 40, and those good people apply and when they do and they meet the barometer for our values and ethics, then obviously the diversity lens goes across.”
In a 2016 data profile on the City of Surrey, 33 per cent of the city’s population was South Asian.
“That’s a large representative group, and I can tell you the South Asian community members are applying, they live here, their applications are coming through. We have a lot of strong applicants of South Asians that are applying to the organization.”
But Hyland said ethnicity is just one of the elements of diversity, adding gender diversity is “always a struggle.”
Women make up 50 per cent of population, said Hyland, “and we aren’t anywhere close to being 50 per cent of the workforce. That’s no different in other areas, like firefighters or some of these other frontline things.”
Meantime, she said the Surrey Police Service has an opportunity to start from scratch.
“I think we have an obligation not to squander that we are starting from scratch. I don’t say that as a criticism, but I think if you’re a police service that’s been around for 100 or 150 years, that’s a lot of years of hiring and having an organization that ran a certain way with certain policies and procedures,” Hyland said.
“I think we have an advantage to learn those lessons, but I really think we have an obligation to do it right. Not everybody has a chance to start from scratch, and when you do you better honour that opportunity and be very thoughtful.”