A Surrey mom who will be marking the 10th anniversary of her daughter being killed by a drunk driver on May 3 is stunned that the Surrey Police Service just hired an inspector that recently came off a 90-day driving prohibition for being impaired while behind the wheel.
Inspector Jeff Metcalfe will leave his job as Divisional Duty Officer, BC-RCMP Criminal Operations to join Surrey’s new city police force, set to replace the Surrey RCMP. He did not respond to requests for comment.
“He is not going to be doing any interviews,” Sharlene Brooks, public affairs and communications manager for the Surrey Police Service, told the Now-Leader. “He actually doesn’t even start with the SPS until May.”
Panorama resident Markita Kaulius lost her daughter Kassandra, age 22, to a drunk driver in 2011 in Surrey and since then has dedicated herself to lobbying government for better impaired driving laws through a group she founded, Families for Justice.
“The signal that it sends is basically yes, you can get convicted and it’s not a big deal it won’t affect your work or anything like that,” Kaulius said of the hire. “Well the reality is most people, it does affect their employment I’m sure.”
“He’s a representative of the law, and in no way should he ever have got behind the wheel of a vehicle while being impaired.,” she said. “Really by the grace of God he didn’t hit somebody or kill somebody, right.”
Brooks said the SPS conducts thorough background reviews of all prospective hires and that Metcalfe “made full disclosure of the circumstances and has taken complete responsibility for his actions.
“The Surrey Police is more than satisfied that Inspector Metcalfe will make a strong contribution to the Surrey Police team and appreciates his candor during the interview and hiring process and look forward to welcoming him in May and benefiting from his 24 years of policing service,” Brooks said. “Surrey Police Service will not be making any further comment on this matter.”
Kaulius said she hopes Metcalfe “will have learned his lesson and go out and speak to people about the mistakes that he made. You can’t condemn somebody for one action that they did, but still as a representative of the law that was a pretty bad judgment on his part.”
Meantime, Surrey city Councillor Linda Annis has written an open letter to the Surrey Police Board “on behalf of Surrey taxpayers” seeking an explanation of the SPS’s hiring process and practices,” specifically in Metcalfe’s case.
“For a new force working together to build a credible reputation in our community, the decision to hire an inspector who has demonstrated such a serious and potentially dangerous lack of judgment creates questions about the hiring process,” Annis wrote to the mayor and the police board. “To many in our community this specific hiring decision implies that SPS standards are low or that it is desperate to fill positions. Neither engenders trust.”
McCallum told the Now-Leader at press time he had nothing to do with the interviewing or hiring process. “It’s up to them to make that decision. I understand though that he was forthright and they did ask him on it and they felt very comfortable that it was in the past and he’s a good candidate and would provide a tremendous service to a new police force so they decided to hire him, though I wasn’t involved in knowing the particulars or anything.”
“We’re going through a good process, we’ve got good people involved in the process,” McCallum said.
“This is a personnel thing and it needs to stay in the personnel realm, you know, this isn’t stuff that will go out and you blab away in the press about every single inspector that we do. I mean, it’s a personnel issue and personnel issues are confidential in every city that I’m aware of.”
“If they feel they will provide a good service for the community, then they hire them,” McCallum said.
“To be honest with you, why don’t you write about the good ones once in awhile?” he said. “Why don’t you write on all the rest of them, how spectacular qualifications they have, why don’t you balance it out a little bit once in a while?”
“One of the ones are Indo-Canadian, so why don’t you write about that?”
McCallum said in the case of Metcalfe, “as long as we did a very thorough investigation of it, and did an interview and he was forthright with what happened in that interview, the people doing the interview were satisfied that he was forthright and that they were also satisfied that he could bring a tremendous amount of experience and would be an extremely good person for our police service, then I fully support the hiring of him, I don’t have any conflict, and that’s where I stand on that particular one.”