My Experience with Access to Information and the RCMP

Since I announced my return to politics on July 7, the crime taking place on Surrey’s streets have dominated the headlines and the agenda.  Soon after my announcement, I had the privilege of doing a ride along with one of the senior RCMP officers on shift on a Thursday night, which was a shocking eye opener to what was really happening out there.

Geographically, policing the City of Surrey is very challenging, because in terms of sheer land mass, it could comfortably hold Vancouver, Burnaby and Richmond combined.  I saw how the officer I rode with would have to respond to calls from one corner of the city to the other, and how that could impact response times.

So on August 5, I decided to file an Access to Information (ATIP) request to find out exactly how many of the 673 officers the Surrey RCMP detachment consists of are on patrol on any given shift.

Within days of the request going in, media attention prompted the release of the information I was requesting: 36 officers.  To say I was blown away by this figure is an understatement.

This works out to approximately 1 officer on patrol for every 14,156 Surrey residents.  Now while the RCMP did mention that there were always a range of specialized units that were also on the streets simultaneously, the ratio of uniformed patrol officers seemed very low.

I am still unsure about the release of that number, as within 2 weeks of filing several ATIPs, I received a response back from the RCMP stating that my requests were going to take several months, and that even then, the release of certain figures would likely be restricted.

Even certain sitting Councillors who had requested similar numbers had been stonewalled for months until the attention my ATIPs caused served as a catalyst.

The whole exercise of trying to access information of the Ottawa-based national force proved to be a frustrating experience, and only served to reinforce the need for greater accountability.  With Surrey residents paying over $100 million per year for the RCMP contract, it is vital for elected representatives to demand a more open relationship when it comes to information.

After all, we are the customer, and as the service provider, the RCMP must do more to inform their client about the level of service that we as Surrey residents are receiving.

About the Author

Safe Surrey Coalition