"I believe that people will continue to judge us based on our responsiveness to the community, our work ethic, our skills as police officers, and our ability to keep them safe.” - Brian Edwards, Surrey RCMP Officer in Charge Assistant Commissioner
What are your responsibilities as Surrey RCMP Officer in Charge?
My position at Surrey RCMP is as the Officer in Charge of the detachment. People are more familiar with the term Police Chief, and that is essentially my position here in Surrey. I have the privilege of being the head of a leadership team with the responsibility of overseeing every aspect of Surrey’s policing operations, from our frontline operations and investigations, to finance and human resources, to the wellness of our officers and employees.
As Surrey RCMP Officer in Charge, what are the major issues you will be focusing on?
The policing priorities for Surrey are set out in our 2018-2022 Strategic Framework which is built in consultation with the City of Surrey and the community. I recently met with Mayor McCallum to review our priorities and he was supportive of what we have in place. Our top priority is gang activity and drug trafficking, and reducing violent crime. In the short term, we target this criminal activity with enforcement however, our long term strategy to keep youth out of gangs focuses on prevention, intervention and education.
What are the challenges attached to this role? How will you deal with them?
The business of policing is inherently challenging, but I think that is also part of what makes it so rewarding. Surrey itself is a unique city: it is growing rapidly, covers a large geographic area, has a large youth population, and has a rich diversity. For some time, there has been a somewhat unshakable perception that Surrey is a dangerous place to be. Knowing that Surrey’s crime rate is generally declining when you look at our ten-year crime trends, I want to help residents feel safer in their community. I plan to do that by ensuring we engage with the community in meaningful ways, and by increasing our visibility so people know we are here working for them.
How has your journey been so far as part of the RCMP?
I have enjoyed every part of my policing career and I’ve had the opportunity to take on many exciting and challenging roles with the RCMP over the past 17 years. During my time at the BC RCMP headquarters, I worked with the Surrey RCMP quite a bit so I had a good sense of the type of innovation and programming that was being done in Surrey. Surrey detachment has created some outstanding initiatives that have been tailor-made for the city. Examples include the Police Mental Health Outreach Team that works with some of our most vulnerable community members, the “Shattering the Image” anti-gang presentations, and the Surrey RCMP Parent Helpline (604-599-7800) which provides local parents with support and resources if they are concerned about their children becoming involved in illegal activities. As the new Officer in Charge of this detachment, I am grateful for this chance to support and enhance these types of initiatives that are responsive to Surrey’s needs.
What are your thoughts on the City of Surrey working towards its own police department?
The decision on what type of police force a city has is made by the municipality, province and Public Safety Canada. As the current contracted service provider, the Surrey RCMP is not a participant in this process. However, the City of Surrey’s proposed transition to a municipal police force has not changed our commitment and responsibility to provide an excellent police service to the residents of Surrey. As long as we remain contracted to do so, we will continue to serve Surrey with pride and dedication. Certainly, this proposed police transition has placed a level of uncertainly upon our officers and employees and impacted morale, tosome degree. As a result, I am placing a great deal of importance on employee wellness to ensure they are well supported, just as Assistant Commissioner McDonald did before me.
With the City promising a new police force, do you think Surrey residents have lost faith in the RCMP?
I know a very large number of Surrey residents continue to support the RCMP, as they always have. I do not think that people’s trust and faith in the Surrey RCMP is swayed by the City of Surrey’s desire to move to a municipal police force. I believe that people will continue to judge us based on our responsiveness to the community, our work ethic, our skills as police officers, and our ability to keep them safe. This is how all police departments should be assessed, regardless of the badge we wear.
What are your thoughts on Surrey’s budget including a hiring freeze on new officers? How will the RCMP work around these restrictions?
The growth of Surrey has translated into a marked increase in the demand for police services; last year, we managed an additional 700 files per month. However, Mayor and Council have made it clear that we will not be receiving additional resources for the second year in a row. As such, I will be working with my senior leadership team to identify any areas where pressures emerge. If any adjustments need to be made to preserve our frontline police response, we will do that, but it is my hope that we can continue to offer our full compliment of programs and services.
Does the stop on resources mean safety of Surrey residents will be compromised?
We will not allow the safety of our city to be compromised. I will continue to keep a close eye on how our officers are deployed and any pressures that emerge as the population increases with no commensurate increase in staff resources from the City of Surrey. Our prevention, intervention and enforcement efforts are uniquely tailored for Surrey, and it is my hope that we can continue to offer our full compliment of programs and services.
How would you ensure safety and less crime in Surrey?
Police certainly play a leading role in safety and crime reduction in any city, but a good public safety strategy involves the entire community. There are a lot of underlying social issues which have tremendous impact on public safety. For example, addictions and the demand for illicit drugs contributes to drug trafficking and gang violence in the Lower Mainland. Public safety issues like this require involvement from a number of community partners including healthcare and housing providers and educators. As Surrey’s Officer in Charge, I will continue to enhance our partnerships and our community outreach to support long-term crime reduction and safety in Surrey.
What is your message to Surrey residents?
I want to assure our community that we will continue to provide Surrey with excellent policing service, for as long as we are contracted to do so. I hope it is for many years to come. I also want to express my gratitude to Surrey residents and business owners for their participation in public safety. Thank you for working with us. Keep calling in with your tips, keep reporting crime to us, and keep supporting our community’s youth and vulnerable people.