This past summer of discontent against police has set the stage for Norm Lipinski, the new top cop in Surrey, who is vowing a slew of changes in one of Canada’s fastest growing and most culturally diverse cities.
From more cops on bikes to walking the beat and welcoming soirees for new Canadians, Lipinski’s central goal revolves around creating a force that will police the plurality of Surrey with constant engagement and strident enforcement.
“That will begin with creating a command structure that reflects the diversity of Surrey both in ethnicity and gender,” Lipinksi told NCM as he prepared for his new role that will begin later this month.
“We can learn a lot from the anti-police sentiment that has swept many parts of the world this past summer, especially in the U.S. and from the great work of the RCMP has done in Surrey. But now is a time for change to remove tensions and rebuild confidence in police,” he said.
“We can do it and build a more modern, inclusive, accountable, and community-based model,” said Lipinski, who brings 42 years of policing experience to Surrey, where close to half of residents are immigrants.
Force to reflect Surrey’s ethnic make-up
Lipinski said the first order of business will be to hire a complement of senior staff and officers that will be reflective of the community with recruitment efforts targeting ethnic and Indigenous communities and women.
The RCMP employs nearly three-quarters of B.C.’s 9,500 police with 18 per cent of its officers coming from visible minority groups and another five per cent comprising Indigenous persons. About 20 per cent of RCMP members across the country are women.
While these numbers may be representative for rural communities, it is out of whack for places like Surrey, where 34 per cent of residents speak English as a secondary language and where females outnumber males in the general population.
Lipinski believes that there will be a direct correlation between better diversity in the Surrey Police Force and improved confidence in perceptions of police performance among different visible minority groups.
Statistics Canada said in a report last week that people designated as visible minorities report less confidence in police than non-visible minority people.
Just over one-third (35 per cent) of Canadians belonging to population groups designated as visible minorities reported having a great deal of confidence in the police in 2019, compared with 44 per cent among non-visible minority people, the national number crunchers said.
Confidence levels also varied among different visible minority groups. For example, Southeast Asian (25 per cent) and Chinese (26 per cent) Canadians were less likely to report a great deal of confidence in the police compared with non-visible minority people (44 per cent).
Lipinski, a former assistant commissioner for the RCMP’s E-Division in B.C., said he will be reaching out to faith leaders, community groups, NGOs, neighbourhood associations and local media among others as he works on a strategic plan for the Surrey Police Force, which will have 1,150 employees — 805 police officers, 325 civilian positions and 20 Community Safety Personnel (CSP).
Determined for change
Surrey currently is the only one of 19 major Canadian population centres with more than 300,000 people without a local police department.
A self-described data geek, with a Master of Business Administration degree as well as a Bachelor of Laws degree, Lipinski plans to use the community consultations to draw up a delivery service model that will hinge on a $200 million budget annually.
“If the data shows we can deliver better service by having officers out of their cars and walking the beat or on bikes, we will do it,” said Lipinski.
The veteran cop also plans meet and greet sessions for immigrants and refugees as they settle in Surrey which is home to about a fifth of all new arrivals to B.C.
“Our recruiting will be different, our tone will be different and our engagement will be different,” Lipinski added.