Inquiring minds need to know.
The Surrey Police Service and Surrey Police Board have together received 95 Freedom of Information requests to date, in-house lawyer Kyle Friesen told a board meeting on Tuesday.
“Approximately 11,000 pages of records have been reviewed,” he said. The SPS alone has received 55 FOI request since it started and as a result processed 9,470 pages of records.
“You can see for a small public body here we’ve had a lot of action on the FOI side so far,” Friesen noted. “Our volume increases typically after a media event, so after our first swearing-in event in July we had sort of a spike in the number of requests and that’s quite a legitimate thing, people want to know more about how it was done, and costs and activities like that.”
Friesen noted some of the requests have been “very wide,” like asking for all the emails in someone’s inbox. “Those are the easiest ones to deal with.”
Broad requests, he said, typically draw a fee estimate, which he noted is a “legitimate approach” under Section 75 of the FOI Act which permits fees to be charged if it takes more than three hours for staff to locate, retrieve, produce and prepare the records. Some requests have come from law firms, he said.
“As everyone knows, freedom of information and protection of privacy involves a careful balance between the right of access and the protection of personal privacy, also considering sensitive operational policing and sensitive information about public bodies and that’s no different than any other public body out there,” Friesen told the board.
Chief Constable Norman Lipinski told the Surrey Police Board on Tuesday that the Surrey Police Service has hired 143 police officers to date and all told he expects 150 to be hired by year’s end.
“We hope to have 50 boots on the ground by the end of November and we recently opened up our recruiting,” he said. “We’re still on target for Nov. 30, keep in mind we’re working with three levels of government, there’s many legal instruments that even today we’ve been working on.”
“We are excited about that first installment, having those police officers on the front line and we’ll also have part of that 50 will be inside the Surrey detachment doing some investigative work,” Lipinski said. “So far we’ve hired experienced police officers and I can tell you that we have representation from 17 police agencies in Canada, within the Surrey Police Service.”
New recruits will attend classes at the Justice Institute next spring and fall, he said.
The SPS has asked for 13 seats for the spring and fall sessions.
“The reason why the number is a little bit lower is to allow the other municipal agencies to fill the seats,” Lipinski said, adding that class sizes vary from 32 to 42 students, at times as many as 50.
“Because we’ve hired so many from the municipal departments in the Lower Mainland this gives an opportunity to the other police agencies to catch up,” he explained. “Our number one goal is to not compromise public safety in the Lower Mainland, we will not do that.”
For 2023, he said, he anticipates the SPS’s number of recruits attending courses at the Justice Institute will be “much, much higher.”
The Surrey Police Board will next meet on Nov. 30.