Secretive city meetings slammed

Chair of Surrey's Police Committee says too much has been discussed behind closed doors, and promises to open them up.

Secretive city meetings slammed

The city’s police committee is under fire for conducting too much business behind closed doors, and some say that amounts to lack of transparency and accountability.

Surrey’s Police Committee met last Monday, and nearly the entire meeting was held in-camera, in the absence of the public.

Newton resident Laila Yuile said it’s unfathomable that the city would conduct all that business behind closed doors.

“If you look at the City of Vancouver, their police board meetings are open to the public,” said Yuile, who blogs on local political issues.

Coun. Barinder Rasode agrees too much is being discussed behind closed doors.

And as chair of the police committee, she acknowledges the fault falls squarely on her shoulders.

Coun. Linda Hepner says there have been very few occasions on the committee where the in-camera matters weren’t too sensitive to discuss publicly. She also feels any public matters discussed behind closed doors was inadvertent.

Rasode feels it’s been problematic enough that she will be changing the way the meetings are run.

“I am making a commitment to change the entire structure of the police committee meetings,” Rasode said Tuesday.

The Community Charter allows cities to hold in-camera meetings for three reasons – generally if they involve land, labour or litigation.

On Monday, the meeting was shut down to the public because, if made public, the matters could be harmful to a police investigation, which is also covered in the Community Charter).

However, police crime statistics were discussed, which some councillors feel are outside the realm of a closed meeting.

“I think it (the rule) is quite narrow in terms of what should be in closed,” Rasode said. “I think we have to be diligent about making sure we’re abiding by that.”

Rasode says she will open up the police committee meetings as much as possible. She also plans to have quarterly police meetings, where the public can attend and ask questions.

Both of those proposals are expected to be discussed at February’s police committee meeting. The exact date has not yet been set.