Melissa Granum is the executive director for the Surrey Police Board, which will have its second meeting on Sept. 15. No novice to the task, the Ladner resident served with the Delta Police Department as its corporate planning manager for 12 years. That role included administration of the Delta Police Board, intergovernmental relations, internal communications, strategic planning, annual reporting, research, marketing, and public relations.
Granum holds a master’s degree in business administration, a BA in sociology and a diploma in broadcasting and media communications. Her volunteer work included serving as a director on Delta Chamber of Commerce and Delta Hospice Society boards. She was also a member of the Rotary Club of Ladner for more than a decade.
Reporter Tom Zytaruk spoke with Granum on Aug. 11 about steering this fledgling nine-member board that is tasked with shepherding a new city police force for Surrey that’s set to replace the RCMP.
Zytaruk: Why did you apply for this job?
Granum: Well, I did the job in Delta for 12 years, working for the police board. The opportunity to come to work for the Surrey Police Board was sort-of a once in a lifetime opportunity, recognizing the scope of change here in Surrey.
Zytaruk: Is it a volunteer position, are the board members volunteers? How does it work?
Granum: The board members are volunteers – we do pay an honorarium for time. I’m the executive director, I’m not a board member. The board is appointed by council and I’m employed by the board.
Zytaruk: How would you say the first meeting went?
Granum: It went very well. I was pleased with the board, and their interest, their focus on the tasks, their professionalism. They clearly are passionate about this and I think they are going to work very well together.
Zytaruk: You will be meeting once a month?
Zytaruk: What’s going to happen during the second meeting?
Granum: I don’t know yet. I haven’t started putting the agenda together for that.
Zytaruk: You went in-camera after your first meeting. How long did that portion of the meeting go?
Granum: Probably a couple of hours.
Zytaruk: Oh wow, so longer than the meeting itself.
Granum: Yeah, there are things the board needs to discuss and the Police Act has outlined what qualifies to go in-camera.
Zytaruk: Obviously it’s not lost on you, the controversy attached to this whole thing, the policing transition. Do you feel kind of like you’re running a Roman gauntlet here?
Granum: I think with significant change like this there will be controversy. I truly believe in the fundamental importance of civilian oversight for the police, and I’m here because I believe in it.
Zytaruk: Trying to stay out of the politics and stay the course…
Granum: The role of the board, the structure of the board, as per the Police Act, is designed to keep politics out of policing, so I report to the board and the board is a non-political body.
Zytaruk: Let the politicians deal with the politics of the matter, eh. What’s the cost of the transition?
Granum: So they have a one-page document that we’re putting on our website. It’s what was approved by council last year and it’s part of the rolling five-year plan.
Zytaruk: Can you actually say what it is?
Granum: I’ll send it to you.
Zytaruk: I’ll just insert it, I guess.
Zytaruk: When will the police chief be hired?
Granum: Hiring the police chief is one of the key priorities for the board. I can’t speak specifically to date, but I can say it’s a priority.
Zytaruk: When will the Surrey Police Service be taking over policing from the Surrey RCMP?
Granum: Well, the targeted date, as has been mentioned on a regular basis, is April of next year and that will continue to be the target.
Zytaruk: Will it be a gradual thing, or will it be just like the next day – boom – all of a sudden we’ve got the Surrey Police?
Granum: So that’s really a question for when the chief is hired, the responsibilities between the chief constable for the Surrey Police Service and the RCMP, and how that will work between the two agencies.
Zytaruk: Does the board already have a shortlist of potential police chiefs?
Zytaruk: When will the request go out?
Granum: Again, I can’t speak to dates because the board hasn’t made decisions on that yet but I can say again it’s a key priority for the board. The job will be posted publicly, and it will be a national search.
Zytaruk: How many RCMP officers do you think will transfer over to the Surrey Police Service?
Granum: I don’t have an answer for that. I think every police department and police service would like to know the answer to how many of their police officers may wish to transfer.
Zytaruk: People are still calling for a referendum. Are we past that at this point?
Granum: Calling a referendum is really a local government issue and not a police board issue so I really can’t speak to that. What I can say is that the city council voted to establish the Surrey Police Service, the provincial government approved it, formed a board, and the board’s now focusing on developing the Surrey Police Service.
Zytaruk: What do you want people to know about the function of the police board?
Granum: I would like for people to understand the level of civilian oversight that occurs with the police board. The police board is responsible for hiring the chief, it’s responsible for approving every policy that directs the Surrey Police Service, it’s responsible for approving the budget and forwarding that budget to council. And it’s responsible for service and policy complaints. So, the level of oversight of a police board is significant and it’s integral, in my opinion, to a police service.
Zytaruk: The board, the terms are two years for the members?
Granum: It depends on the Order in Council. It’s really at the pleasure of the government. They can appoint for one year, two years and three years but up to a maximum of six years. No board member can sit on the board for more than six years.
Zytaruk: The Freedom of Information committee, have you decided who you want to put on there?
Granum: Because freedom of information is such an important aspect of the work, right now the board has agreed to have every board member involved in Freedom of Information requests.
Zytaruk: Would you say it is quite a high pressure position that you are in?
Granum: It’s an engaging position. It’s a challenging position, and at times it is a pressure position only because of the scope of work and the magnitude of the project.
Zytaruk: I guess you’re the executive director of the biggest policing transition in Canada’s history. Do you ever wake up and go wow, whatever did I get myself into? Kind of daunting?
Granum: I wasn’t stressed until you said that…
Zytaruk: So what kind of things does Melissa Granum do when she’s not busy police-boarding?
Granum: Melissa is trying to properly raise her children. I do volunteer in my community; I’ve sat on a couple of boards within Delta. I like to stay active – I know the whole work/life balance is very important and just like in policing, with police officers, mental health is very important to me and so taking care of myself outside of work and making sure I can be the best employee and the best mom that I can be. It’s a very humbling position to be in, to be a part of this project and it is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Zytaruk: What’s your biggest challenge in your new role?
Granum: You know I wouldn’t call it a challenge, I’d actually call it more of an opportunity. When you have a diverse board, with diverse ways of thinking, there are differences of opinion and so the reason why I don’t see it as a challenge is because at the end of the day when you have these diverse thoughts and those different opinions on matters you end up with a product that is far superior to something if it was everybody is agreed at the onset.
Zytaruk: Everybody’s talking about transparency in government, transparency in agencies. What is your perspective on that in the Surrey Police Board and how will you do your best to facilitate transparency?
Granum: I agree that transparency is incredibly important to citizens and that is the lens that I will put on the work that we do with the board.