SURREY (NEWS 1130) – In the hours following a shooting in which a Transit Police officer was shot in Surrey, that city’s mayor said he was shocked by the incident, which happened in a public and crowded place.
At a council meeting Wednesday night, Mayor Doug McCallum added he hoped the officer would recover quickly. But he then doubled down on his plan to scrap the RCMP in favour of a municipal police force.
Peter Lepine, a retired police chief with 35 years’ experience in policing, says its “unfortunate” the mayor used the shooting to push his political agenda.
“I’m not saying that I’m against his agenda, but I don’t know how the two are related. The officer who got shot was an independent municipal police officer — although working in transit, working in his community. What the incident and the immediate needs for public safety at that time have to do with his agenda, I can’t connect the two.”
Lepine is also surprised the city and mayor didn’t get out there to support the community, the hurt transit officer, and the officers out there trying to find him.
“You could see from all of the Twitter postings the overwhelming support that came for that officer and those policing the community afterwards. It was there. It just wasn’t there from the civic leadership.”
The mayor spoke to @NEWS1130 #SurreyBC reporter @Tarankparmar, saying he hopes the officer has a quick recovery. But then quickly politicized the shooting as a reason to switch to muni police force. He couldn't say how a municipal force could have prevented the shooting, though. https://t.co/LwGxCxyQom
— Charmaine de Silva (@char_des) January 31, 2019
The police situation late Wednesday afternoon was a fluid and unfolding one, where a police officer was hurt in the community and the suspect was still at large.
“The citizens of a community are obviously worried … and they need some assurance from the civic leadership that they’ve got their finger on the pulse, that they’re there supporting not only the dozens of police officers that came into the community from other communities to help but also lend support for the investigative agency, which is the Surrey RCMP.”
Lepine says based on his experience, a situation like that calls for people like the mayor to support for those on the front lines. “I didn’t see it. I was thinking, ‘Maybe I missed it’ … I asked for someone to put me in the direction as to where I might find it. I haven’t seen it.”
Late Wednesday night, Premier John Horgan sent a tweet, saying his thoughts are with the officer who was shot.
— John Horgan (@jjhorgan) January 31, 2019
Lepine, who spent the first 10 years of his career serving in Surrey, expected something similar from McCallum.
“I know the mayor of Surrey is a busy person, but he’s got a communications team beside him and behind him. If he wouldn’t have thought about it — maybe he got tied up doing something — I would have thought that maybe somebody out of the communications team might have pulled him aside and said, ‘What do you want to say here?’ I don’t know if that happened, but I didn’t see it.”
Mayor Doug McCallum told @Tarankparmar last night he's very concerned since the shooting took place such a public space, but he also didn't back away from a hiring freeze on new officers this year and his plan to scrap @SurreyRCMP. @NEWS1130
— Monika Gul (@MonikaGul) January 31, 2019
He says officers put their lives on the line on a daily basis and don’t think about being injured.
“It’s a tragedy if and when it happens. Notwithstanding that fact, they continue to do the job,” he said.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that the 80-plus police officers that were patrolling the streets of Surrey, trying to apprehend a dangerous suspect who continued to pose a danger to the community weren’t thinking about their own safety. They were doing that while thinking about whether or not the Transit Police officer was actually going to survive. They do it out of dedication.”
Lepine says he’s not trying to be overly critical of Surrey’s mayor and council.
“But I think as he moves forward with the agenda of replacing the RCMP, he needs to be focused on the … needs for council to continue to articulate their support and to ensure that communication is there so the public can feel that they’re safe, that they know what council is doing, and that they can trust council to make the right decisions.”
“They may be doing that, they’re just not doing a heck of a job — or any kind of a job, as I can see it — with articulating how they plan on doing that.”
McCallum issued a statement Thursday afternoon, wishing the officer a speedy recovery and thanking the RCMP for doing what they can to catch the suspect.
– With files from Charmaine de Silva