SURREY — The City of Surrey has named Terry Waterhouse its first-ever director of public safety strategies, a new position promised by Mayor Linda Hepner and her Surrey First team along the campaign trail in 2014.
The goal of the new role is to have better integration between public safety portfolios and city departments to ultimately make the city a safer place. The director will work with city staff, the city’s top cop Bill Fordy, the fire chief, bylaw and external agencies.
Waterhouse, a former cop who has worked in public safety for decades, with experience working with at-risk youth, says he’s honoured to have been selected.
“When this opportunity came up, which combined my experience and my interests in a growing, dynamic community that really wants to make a difference, it felt like a perfect fit,” he told the Now.
“My career has always focused on same aspect of public safety – both as a practitioner and as a researchers – learning about how we can best make our communities as safe as possible.”
Waterhouse’s career began as a secondary school teacher. He later switched gears and joined the Vancouver Police Department. There, his work largely focused on the needs of at-risk youth, first as a cop on the street and then as a school liaison, where he handled things like child abuse investigations.
“I saw a lot about the plight of children when they’re in vulnerable situations,” he said. “I got very interested in what we could do to prevent youth from being victimized and falling prey to criminal activity.”
Those early frontline experiences were the start of a lifelong passion in the field.
After about a decade as a police officer, Waterhouse went back to school to get a Masters in Business Administration and Doctorate in Education. He did research and developed programs on bullying, then worked on a number of projects internationally on youth justice reform in developing and post-conflict countries. Waterhouse worked with the United Nations and justice agencies from Kosovo, Ethiopia and Vietnam.
That led to a faculty position at the University of the Fraser Valley, where he was the director for the Centre for Safe Schools and Communities and an instructor.
He currently serves as Chief Safety Officer at Simon Fraser University.
“There I was still able to work in the field but it really allowed me to learn a lot about senior administration and about how organizations tackle these types of significant challenges,” said Waterhouse.
“It feels like my next progression is into this work with the City of Surrey,” he said.
“I’ve got the frontline experience, I’ve got the commitment to the issues, and I think I’m an experienced senior administrator who has come experience in developing organizational strategies.”
Waterhouse said he’s not yet sure whether his passion working with at-risk youth will be a focus in his new position.
“I wouldn’t want to jump too far ahead in terms of determining what types of programs will be developed,” he said, “Surrey school district is actually one of the leaders in the country in terms of youth programs. So definitely we’ll work together.”
For now, his focus will be familiarizing himself with the issues and the agencies in the city.
“I think the first challenge is to make sure that I know what the challenges are,” said Waterhouse. “I know Surrey well, but I have a lot to learn. That will be the number one challenge, as we build the strategy, to make sure it’s well-informed.”
Mayor Linda Hepner said Waterhouse’s “diverse and lengthy” experience is “unparalleled.”
“From his global experience with the most vulnerable at-risk youth to his knowledge and expertise in the integration of public safety best practices, Dr. Waterhouse’s technical skills, academic background and leadership abilities will serve him well in this critical role for the city,” Hepner said.