Abused children's centre becomes political football in Surrey police debate

Coun. Brenda Locke of Surrey is criticizing a plan that could reduce the number of police officers assigned to the child and youth support centre known as Sophie's Place.

But Mayor Doug McCallum says that Locke's concerns are a veiled attempt at "fear mongering" around Surrey's plan to create an independent city police force to replace the RCMP.

"Coun. Locke campaigned on and voted in favour of a city police force," wrote McCallum in a statement.

"Not only has she broken her word to the Surrey residents who voted for, her but she is now dragging in Sophie's Place and all the good work that everyone does there for political purposes. That, to me, is unconscionable and irresponsible."

This morning Locke released a statement through a public relations firm stating that the Surrey Policing Transition Report, "lacks needed support for abused children" because it calls for seven police officers to be assigned to Sophie's Place, as opposed to the 11 which were agreed upon by Surrey city council in February.

"It will just be untenable for the officers and for the children who are already vulnerable," Locke told CBC. "They will not get the kind of service that they need."

CBC

But McCallum says the numbers in the report are "just a starting point." 

"Officers can be moved and added to sections as deemed appropriate by the Surrey Police Chief," said McCallum. "It should be noted that under the new SPD model the seven officers dedicated to Sophie's Place would be [complemented] by, and part of, a larger special investigations section."

Sophie's Place treats children under the age of 18 who are victims of mental, physical and sexual abuse. It is currently undergoing an expansion which will see client numbers increase from 180 per year to 300. 

Sophie's Place CEO Gerard Bremault says the recommendation for seven officers in the transition report is worrying.

"Eleven police was what was agreed on and unanimously supported by counsel and the mayor in February and we're grateful," he said. "What we see in the [policing] plan seems to be different, so it raises concern of how we will implement [our expansion plan] going forward."

Bremault said the officers who work at Sophie's Place are part of the centre's multi-disciplinary care model and specialize in investigations that are often sensitive in nature.

McCallum and Locke both ran for the Safe Surrey Coalition which promised to make Surrey safer and more accountable to its citizens by creating a city police force. 

The Surrey Policing Transition Report, which outlines how the city will transition from the RCMP to a city police force, was released earlier this month.