Last Monday, Surrey council did not offer support for a liquor application by RCMP E-Division for its new B.C. headquarters being built in Green Timbers Urban Forest.
The Mounties want to carry on a long-standing tradition of having a licensed mess hall available for members. (A bar exists at the current B.C. RCMP headquarters in Vancouver, which is moving to Green Timbers).
Whether this issue moves forward given the public’s reaction (mostly negative) remains to be seen; the RCMP is under the jurisdiction of the federal government, so it has the power to put in a pub whether or not the City of Surrey or province agree.
But there’s the optics.
At a time when the national police force is in the spotlight and under the microscope for several serious missteps – sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, assault and impaired driving among them – ramming a bar through the red tape might not sit well with stakeholders.
However, outside the context of recent Mountie wrongdoing, would the idea of a licensed mess hall have been that big a deal?
Police perform a dangerous, stressful, often gruesome job that entails long hours, little sleep and sparse thanks. After a shift, being able to decompress with comrades who understand the challenges unique to the profession can not only lighten the load, it can be life-saving.
Back in the day, hashing it out over a cold one with a partner was all that passed for critical incident debriefing. Although more formal intervention policies are now in place, that doesn’t erase the need for connecting with co-workers – something that in the case of police officers and the sensitive nature of their work can’t always be done in community spaces.
Besides, not all cops consume alcohol. A licensed mess hall would provide a safe, central gathering place for both imbibing and teetotaling Mounties and their guests.
As long as members and visitors are held to a zero-tolerance rule of no drinking and driving, bring on the bar.