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Darpan's 10

Darpan's 10 with Surrey Police Service Chief Constable Norm Lipinski

Ish Sharma Darpan, 24 Nov, 2023
  • Darpan's 10 with Surrey Police Service Chief Constable Norm Lipinski

1. Since your tenure with the SPS what have you observed regarding public safety in Surrey?

Since taking this job three years ago, I have been impressed by the willingness of residents, businesses and organizations to partner with police on improving public safety. Surrey is a very engaged city with many people who want to help. To me this is key because the safest communities are those where there is a collaborative approach to public safety. Our officers have responded to thousands of calls for service, providing us with good insights into some of the key public safety issues. Surrey Police Service will work with the community on important issues such as gang prevention, traffic safety, property crime and other matters that directly impact residents and businesses.

I am very excited for the future of policing in Surrey. We are looking at a lot of initiatives to provide Surrey with an outstanding and modern police service including use of body worn cameras and drones, having some two-person vehicles for more efficient police response, and providing our officers with advanced medical training to better respond to traumatic injuries before paramedics arrive.

2. Do you feel Surrey residents have had enough in the battle between Surrey RCMP vs Surrey Police?

 It’s important to clarify that there is no ‘battle’ between the two police agencies in Surrey. While there have been disagreements about the policing transition, those have been between the two levels of government and other groups. I certainly recognize that residents are tired of the uncertainty and politics that have surrounded this transition – I think it is safe to say that we all are. Fortunately, with the clear direction from the Province that Surrey Police Service will be the future of policing for Surrey, we can all now move forward.

3.  Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke is unhappy with the decision, she has launched a petition in BC Supreme Court in an effort to stop the transition from the RCMP to a municipal police force. What are your thoughts on Mayor Locke's decision?

Policing is an important and consequential matter for any municipality. It’s understandable that people are going to have different opinions when such a big change is being made to policing. While I’m aware of the Mayor’s position on policing, that is something for her to sort out with the Province. At SPS, our job is to build a local, progressive, and community-based police agency for Surrey. It is my hope that, in the future, we can have a positive and productive relationship with Mayor and Council.

4. There been a lot of animosity with the policing issue. According to you what will that relationship building process look like and how open do you feel Surrey residents would be to that relationship?

The provincial government has made a decision that the transition to Surrey Police Service will continue and that decision is now enshrined in law. SPS is here to stay and we are honoured and excited to be Surrey’s new police service. Our officers have already built many strong relationships with Surrey residents, organizations and businesses, and that work continues every day. Trust is earned and relationships are built over time – SPS is committed to investing in this process.

5. Former top RCMP commissioner Peter German will also be advising the city on the petition and judicial review, if approved by the court. German called the city’s reversal plan “sensible.” “The warnings about higher costs and inability to recruit frontline officers for the Surrey Police Service have all come true, and the city has an obligation to act in the public interest,” said German in a statement. Do you agree with Mr. German's remarks?

As a legal matter that is before the courts, the judicial review needs to remain free of interference. However, I will say that the best predictor of future abilities are past accomplishments. In less than 3 years, we have hired 400 employees and deployed over 250 officers into direct service to residents. Interest in joining SPS remains strong across the country, and our financials are regularly posted on our website.

6. There has been some disagreement at a council meeting on your plan to have 2 officers per police car which you have defended whereas the majority of  Surrey RCMP officers patrol alone. So how do you hope to have your plan of 2 officers per patrol car?

Two person vehicles provide an enhanced police response for victims, and greater safety for responding officers. With approximately 40 percent of calls to police requiring at least two officers to attend to ensure everyone’s safety, two person vehicles provide a more efficient and cost-effective response for these calls. Arriving separately can place the first officer at the scene in a precarious position of potentially sacrificing personal safety to intervene immediately or having to wait for backup while the safety of the public might be compromised. It is also important to note that two-person vehicles do not mean we need more officers – they are simply a better utilization of the officers we have.

7.  According to you about 45 per cent of the frontline right now are SPS officers. Do we know how many SPS officers are actually needed?

The number of SPS officers that are required is contingent on two key factors: the budgeted and approved strength for police officers in Surrey, and the needs and priorities of the community. The current strength for the Surrey RCMP (including deployed SPS officers) is 734, with the City previously stating 25 officers will be added annually, to 2027. To date, SPS has 336 police officers with more arriving in the coming months.

8. How can Surrey residents feel assured that service is timely as often there have been long wait times when residents have dialled 911 emergency?

 The policing issue in Surrey has been determined with the final decision made by the provincial government on July 19th. With respect to police response, both SPS and the RCMP are committed to providing quality policing service. While the current operations are controlled by the RCMP, once SPS is in charge of policing, we will look at how we can improve call response and police response for residents.

9. What does a plan look like for 2024 for policing for Surrey residents?

You will definitely see an acceleration of the policing transition in 2024. While the exact plan for the hiring, deployments, and demobilizations of officers for 2024 is currently being determined by the three levels of government, SPS and the RCMP, you will certainly see many more SPS uniforms in the community next year. Residents may even some SPS marked vehicles next year if we are given the green light to start using our fleet. Throughout 2024, we will continue our commitment to work cooperatively with all stakeholders to ensure the policing transition remains fiscally responsible and community focused.

10. What's a message you would like to share with the South Asian community?

My message to the community is one of thanks and appreciation. The South Asian community in Surrey is dynamic and generous, and part of what makes the city so great. We have been greeted with kindness at many events and when we are out on patrol. SPS is committed to working with the South Asian community and all communities in Surrey to build strong relationships in support of public safety for all. Thank you for sticking with us through this historic policing transition as we work to build an outstanding police service that is inclusive, modern, and tailor-made for Surrey.

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