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LETTER: Former cop responds to Langley columnist’s piece on defunding police

Surrey man spotlights initiatives for mental health and social work situations

Dear Editor,

I just read columnist Matthew Claxton’s piece in the Peace Arch News on new policing visions. You make some very good points and perhaps, as a retired police officer, I could respond to each of your three points/questions.

1. An excellent point about responding to non-criminal issues. Of course, they are not responding to the ‘crime’ of being mentally ill. They’re responding to the behaviours that are being exhibited and making people feel threatened. The police are the last resort since institutionalized mental health care was defunded. However, did you know that for the past 25 to 30 years the Vancouver Police have deployed a team of a social worker and a police officer 24/7. And, similarly they also deploy a team of a psychiatric nurse and a police officer 24/7. They’ve actually won awards for these programs. Every morning the VPD holds a media briefing and anywhere from 10 to 20 reporters attend every day. Every one of those reporters and the agencies they represent are well aware of those programs. Why do we never hear about how successful they are? I’ll leave you to figure that out.

2. Another excellent point, Sir, about hiring people with expertise to investigate complex financial crimes. Police agencies have actually been doing just that for decades now. But they are hired on contract as subject matter experts. If you contact the VPD Financial Crimes Section or the RCMP Commercial Crime Units, they’ll explain how that works. One other thing is that those police officers that work in those units also are assigned to other duties quite regularly either on overtime or as part of their overall sworn duties. There are many demands for police and a chronic shortage to fulfill all demands. Every police officer has to be a Jack/Jill of all trades in order to get through every 24-hour period.

3. Does every police officer need a gun. The answer is no, but every police officer is required to maintain specific, provincially mandated firearm proficiency. However, many, many police officers go months without carrying a firearm. But again, because of daily needs every police officer is required to have a firearm and to be highly trained in their use in case tomorrow they have to deployed to an event or incident or whatever.

You’ve just scratched the surface of many important issues. I encourage you to contact the VPD Media Liaison Unit to dig deeper. You can start with the Operational Reviews and Yearly Budget Analysis to learn more how police continuously scrutinize themselves and change operational and deployment processes. It may be an eye opener and may lead to questions about why the public is never told of these important initiatives.

Max Chalmers, Surrey

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