Former solicitor general Kash Heed slams politicians, RCMP for ongoing gang violence in Surrey


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Kash Heed
Photo by Chandra Bodalia

KASH Heed, former solicitor general and police chief, told The VOICE this week that we need police leaders that are going to recognize they have the resources but that they need to do business differently.

“They are not going to arrest their way out of our community’s problem. They need to be proactive, not reactive. But these police leaders just will not change. They will not get out of that paradigm which is so unfortunate,” said Heed.

Heed was reacting to the Surrey RCMP’s call for more resources to deal with the ongoing gang violence that claimed the lives of school students 16-year-old Jaskarn Singh Jhutty (Jason) and 17-year-old Jaskaran Singh Bhangal (Jesse) on June 4 and led to an unprecedented “Wake Up! Rally” outside Surrey City Hall, drawing thousands of angry South Asians who demanded action on all fronts to end this state of affairs.

Heed said: “I can tell you right now the criminal justice system is not adequately addressing the problems that we have. They are calling for more resources, more resources – how many times are we going to hear this!

“When I entered policing and through my entire career all we heard was ‘we need more, we need more,’ because we think we can arrest our way out of the problems when in fact you cannot arrest your way out of the problems.

“We’ve seen that with our drug issues, we see it with our gang and gun violence issues – we are not going to arrest our way.”

Heed said the frustration that he had noticed over the years was because politicians “only say what you want to hear, they want to get your vote and at the end of the day, they don’t make much of a difference.”

 

RCMP NOT ACCOUNTABLE TO SURREY

 

I asked Heed about a single police force for the Lower Mainland in order to deal effectively with the situation.

Heed recounted: “In 2009, Dr. Robert Gordon from Simon Fraser University, retired [Vancouver Police] chief constable Bob Stewart and I wrote a report called “The case for the creation of a Metro Vancouver police service.” We’ve updated it right to 2012 and what we said back in 2009 as to the reasons why we need to create a Metro Vancouver police service and other areas of British Columbia … and the reasons why people are against it.

“And we take, for example, the reasons why people are against it and we really delved into that. You will find there is a lot of false information out there, there’s a lot of fear mongering and the majority of that comes from elected politicians and the bureaucracy that those politicians are in charge of. They just do not want change. The problem is we don’t have politicians that recognize that the bureaucracy is fully controlling them and they cannot stand up to it because they just don’t have the knowledge to do that.”

Heed pointed out: “The RCMP certainly has a financial stake here in British Columbia. One-third of their resources are deployed here in British Columbia. The contract that was signed by [then-premier] Christy Clark is a multi-billion dollar, 20-year contract. So when you look at the costs involved in it – to the taxpayers – … about $1.8 billion per year. So you can see the financial stake that the RCMP have in it.”

The problem with the RCMP is that they are governed by Ottawa and not by the B.C. government. They are governed by a federal statute.

Heed said: “They will tell you that ‘well, we are accountable to the community here,’ but there is no legislation to make them accountable, for example, in Surrey, to make the RCMP accountable to the residents and businesses in Surrey. They are accountable to Ottawa.”

He pointed out: “So when you look at this particular situation we have under this contract, it’s dissimilar to independent municipal police agencies which come under the B.C. Police Act and they have a governance model called the police boards and the police boards look after policies and budgets and ensuring that they are in sync with the community.

“The RCMP do not have this. They’ll tell you they have these community safety committees, but … they have no authority whatsoever in governing the RCMP who are on contract in, for example, Surrey.”

 

FOUR-POINT SOLUTION

 

Heed said that first of all there had to be accountability – accountability with the politicians at all three levels of government, accountability with the police leaders to deliver … a comprehensive strategy to deal with this, one where you suppress the activity, you intervene in the activity and, more important, you prevent the activity from continuing.

Heed said: “You look at that comprehensive strategy – there are four main streams that you have to address.”

 

  1. Family:

We know that a lot of the environment is created within the family household and there needs to be change. Where families need help, we have to ensure that we allow and we give them the opportunity to reach out and we provide that assistance to the families. The families can no longer be in denial that their sons are involved in this activity. But there are certain things you can do from the family unit to influence the behaviour of that child from … a very early time in that child’s life.

 

  1. School System:

Then you move on to the school system and you look at that as a second stream because a lot of peer influence, a lot of the relationships are built within that system. That is the only system that sees our kids from kindergarten now through their teen years. And when you look at that system, you have to make sure you have age-appropriate prevention programs in place, starting at the elementary school right through to high school to make sure that people make responsible decisions in their life.  We teach them to be citizens contributing to society. We steer them away from all of this activity around gang and gun violence and other delinquencies that they could be involved in.

 

  1. Community:

The third one is the community. We have to ensure that the community has the resources so our children are active in the community whether that is from an arts program, whether that is an athletic program, or whether that’s just a service that we provide with families that are struggling, individuals that are struggling, we have to make sure the community is fully engaged in ensuring that our youth be productive in society.

 

  1. Criminal Justice System:

We have to make sure, number one, you have the adequate resources and those resources are deployed in a way where you are going to look at the outcome of those resources. That is a very, very expensive stream in this comprehensive plan, but we have to make sure that it is adequately addressing the particular problem because I can tell you right now the criminal justice system is not adequately addressing our problems.