Abused children could lose added support in police transition: Surrey councillor
A Surrey councillor is raising concerns about what the city's transition from RCMP to police may mean for a local centre that helps abused children.
Brenda Locke said the city's plan doesn't promise as many dedicated officers to Sophie's Place as first thought.
Sophie's Place opened in 2012, and currently allows for young abuse victims up to 10 years old to speak to RCMP officers, social workers, and victims services all under one roof in a non-intimidating environment.
The Centre for Child Development's CEO Gerard Bremault said the integrated in-house team is what sets Sophie's Place apart and reduces trauma.
"On average their age is six years of age," said Bremault.
Recent plans to expand Sophie's Place include a proposal for more dedicated officers. Locke worries that component may now be in jeopardy based on a discrepancy between the city's police transition plan and an expansion plan for the centre recently approved by council.
"What is going to change for them is the number of officers that are there to protect the most vulnerable," Locke told CTV News Vancouver.
The centre expansion approved by the city in February means Sophie's Place will also be able to help children up to age 15. The report to the city at the time, dated February 7, calls for "a minimum of 11 investigators".
However, the police transition report released publicly on June 3rd earmarks "a total of seven Surrey PD officers" for Sophie's Place, and adds if more help is needed they "will be supported by the Surrey PD Sex Crimes Unit."
Locke said the lack of new officers would "revictimize" children who are already vulnerable, because they won't have the services they need.
"It would make the workload for those officers absolutely untenable," Locke said.
CTV News requested to speak to Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum, but were told he would not be giving interviews.
Instead, McCallum released a statement, referring to Locke's concerns as "fearmongering".
"The proposed staffing model in the Surrey Policing Transition Report is a starting point and officers can be moved and added to sections as deemed appropriate by the SPD chief," McCallum said.
Bremault said the details in the transition report are "different than what we had understood was endorsed."
"To continue doing that great work for children 10 to 15 we will need that same integrated permanently stationed force," he said.
Bremault added they were not consulted on the transition report, but are still open to providing input, in the hopes of helping more children by the fall.