Recruitment is underway for the incoming municipal police force that will soon replace the local RCMP in Surrey and, in the wake of criticism that the new force does not adequately reflect the diversity of the city, the man at the helm says he is working on it.
Chief Norm Lipinski says he hopes to see the Surrey Police Force (SPF) up and running by the fall of 2021 and while senior officer roles have already been filled, hiring is now underway for mid-level managers and recruiting for constables and sergeants will begin soon.
He told CBC's The Early Edition Thursday that recruiters are especially looking for qualified people from diverse backgrounds to fill those jobs, including women who have long been under-represented in policing roles.
More than half of Surrey's population, 58 per cent, identifies as visible minorities. About 32 per cent of its residents are of South Asian background.
"Diversity is so, so important to us here at SPF," said Lipinki. "Presently in the senior levels, we have two South Asian [officers] and we are certainly working to recruit more."
Who has jobs now?
An April 12 report from Lipinski showed that of the 18 executive and senior officers hired, three are Indigenous, two are South-Asian, one is Japanese and one is Iranian-Belgian.
Upkar Singh Tatlay, the president of the Surrey Crime Prevention Society, told CBC that's a start, but the force needs to do better.
"We need to really drill down and get into the granular details about what those positions reflect. What I'm hoping is these aren't just cursory hires, that they're reflected in leadership," he said.
Lipinsky said some senior roles have not been filled in order to leave room for diverse hires.
"We will recruit at the front end as much as possible and so, in succeeding years, once these people then get promoted into the upper echelons, we have a pool to draw on," he said. "I think it looks promising for the future."
Lipinski says the police force has already hired more women than the national average. He says the SPF is 24 per cent female employees so far, compared to 20 per cent in other police forces across the country.
In total, the SPF is expected to have over 800 officers and 350 employees in civilian support staff positions.
"We are looking for people who want to be a part of a modern and innovative urban police service, rooted in community and its people," Lipinski said in a news release dated April 22.
In June, he told CBC the SPF will be looking primarily at recruiting B.C. RCMP officers, of which the province has an estimated 5,000 and specifically those officers who worked in Surrey.
"They're familiar with the Surrey, I'll say, demographics, cultures, et cetera, so we would look to hiring those people,"said Lipinsky Thursday.
Singh Tatlay said the SPF has talked the talk but he is concerned about the follow-though.
"We have to ensure that it's truly reflective, authentically reflective and responsive to the unique needs of Surrey," he told CBC's The Early Edition in May.