Lack of police committee minutes deemed ‘curious’

SURREY – Some are asking why minutes from Surrey’s police committee meetings are not publicly available.


On the City of Surrey’s website, the police committee shows minutes from 2002 to 2011, but they stop in 2012.


Coun. Barinder Rasode, who chairs the police committee, as well as the "informal" community safety committee, said in 2012, the city’s former public safety committee was split into the two she chairs.


"The City of Surrey police committee, under the terms of reference, need to be open meetings," Rasode said.


When asked why there are no publicly available minutes, Rasode said council as a whole votes to close the meetings, and added she will no longer be voting to do so.


Rasode said at the next council meeting, she will call for changes to the city’s police committee.


"I’m going to bring forward a suggestion to have the police committee reflect other city committees, which are held in an open format where they can receive delegations from the public. I am also going to propose that a couple meetings each year can happen in the evening so people who are working can attend."


Rasode said she’d also like to explore streaming the videos online.


But she added there are instances when the meetings need to be closed, such as when there’s information being discussed that may jeopardize an investigation.


"Last year, we were also in the process of hiring the (officer in charge of the Surrey detachment). There were a lot of things that happened that we couldn’t discuss in public, but absolutely, our obligation, even under the terms of reference of the committee if you look on the website, is to have open meetings. I’m making a commitment to that," Rasode said.


"I’m going to be more diligent about recognized that under section 90, the legislation, there’s very tight parameters around which we can have closed meetings."


When asked for a comment on why the meetings have been closed and no minutes have been recorded, Mayor Dianne Watts said "it’s already public."


When it comes to why there are no minutes available, she referred comment to the chair, Rasode.


"You’re going to have to ask the chair because the chair sets the agenda as well as the meetings," Watts said, but added that she has plans to formalize the community safety committee at the next council meeting.


Watts said she also plans to add other councillors to the community safety committee, mentioning councillors Bruce Hayne, Barbara Steele and Linda Hepner.


Local blogger and 24 Hours columnist Laila Yuile said the lack of police committee minutes is "curious."


"The ability for residents to access information regarding public matters in a transparent manner is vital for democracy," she said.


"Legally, those minutes should exist and document where they went in camera, and for what section of the act they are doing it for," Yuile said. "I think at this point in time it’s extremely important for the city to be very transparent with its activities in regards to crime reduction and policing. While I’m happy to hear the meetings will now be public, I’m still concerned about the lack of availability of minutes for the last two years."


On Monday, Jan. 20, an agenda for a police committee meeting was posted online, with a motion to close in relation to law enforcement and the potential to harm the conduct of an investigation.


The agenda calls to adopt minutes of the Dec. 9, 2013 meeting, but no minutes for the entirety of 2012 or 2013 were available as of press time.