Surrey's new police department falling short on reflecting diverse community, advocate claims

·2 min read
The Surrey Police Service says the force is focused on diversity among all ranks, but a community advocate says he's not convinced given current hiring so far. (CBC - image credit)
The Surrey Police Service says the force is focused on diversity among all ranks, but a community advocate says he's not convinced given current hiring so far. (CBC - image credit)

A crime prevention advocate in Surrey, B.C., says he's concerned the city's new police force isn't hiring enough officers that reflect the diversity of the city.

An April 12 report from Norm Lipinski, the chief constable of the Surrey Police Service, shows that of the 18 executive and senior officers hired so far, three are Indigenous, two are South-Asian, one is Japanese and one is Iranian-Belgian.

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.

"I'm really pleased, especially by our Indigenous communities, that they are reflected somewhat, but [Surrey Police] needs to do a lot better," said Upkar Singh Tatlay, the president of the Surrey Crime Prevention Society.

"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."

Recruiting for the force is active and ongoing, said a spokesperson for the Surrey Police Service, adding the force is focused on diversity among all ranks and is confident that the diversity of the city will be reflected.

"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.

Singh Tatlay said Surrey police have talked the talk but 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 Michelle Eliot, the guest host of CBC's The Early Edition.

He said that the creation of the Surrey Police Service means the city has the opportunity to make changes in its policing model.

"We do this at work right now. We do things in labs and innovation spaces. We do it on boards that I serve on. We've done it in the past," Singh Tatlay said.

"We brought on the first South Asian female chief librarian in the City of Surrey, and she's fully embedded into the city's leadership team. And that's been critical. It has brought profound change in the services that are delivered to this diverse community."

Not only is a diverse police force important for understanding the community's needs, Singh Tatlay said, but it's also important for the community to see themselves represented in significant leadership roles.

"It does provide you with things to aim for, [such as] mentorship opportunities for things that you can aspire to."

Hear Upkar Singh Tatlay's interview on CBC's The Early Edition here: