By Surbhi Gogia
Although the city of Surrey is bidding hard to get its own police force, Surrey’s community is and will always be grateful to the dedicated services provided by RCMP officers for all the years. The community salutes RCMP officers for the sheer hard work and risking their lives to protect general public from the increasing gun violence. One such hero is Inspector Wendy Mehat with over 18 years of experience. Mehat was promoted to Inspector earlier this year and has contributed towards reducing crime and enhanced community safety and encouraging others to action through new initiatives such as ‘Car Yankee 30’ and cultural training projects. For her unwavering commitment to public safety in Surrey and for her community collaborations, she was being named the 22nd Surrey Police Officer of the Year by the Surrey Board of Trade.
Inspector Mehat was born in North Vancouver and was raised in Squamish, B.C. Her parents were both born in Punjab, India. “My family (Great-Great Grandfather) arrived to Vancouver in the 1920s, although our family had been in Canada for several generations, I was quite fortunate to grow up having strong exposure to the South Asian culture and customs within the smaller town/community I was raised in. We spoke Punjabi at home growing up, which certainly helped me later on in life as police officer,” she says.
Since her first posting in Surrey Detachment, where she served for 6 years in Whalley, on General Duty, she has worked in federal organized crime units and with the Surrey RCMP’s Professional Standards Unit, before coming back to a “community” position in Surrey.
Married to a police officer and a mother to two young daughters, Inspector Mehat in an interview with Desi Today discusses more about her work and public safety.
Heartiest congratulations on being nominated as Police officer of the Year by the community. How do you feel? What do you think brought you closer to the Surrey community that it nominated you as its favourite?
Thank you for the congratulations, it’s truly an honour to receive it, and I am thankful to the community for this award. In answer to your question as to what may have brought me closer to this nomination – for the past two years I have worked in a role where I have been very fortunate to overseeing community and youth based policing teams. Working within these specific teams has brought me in closer contact with many community members and partners.
It is an inspiration to see a South Asian woman standing tall and strong in the Police fraternity, did you always dream of becoming a police officer? How did you get into this career. It was a very difficult career choice, how was the family support?
I knew from a young age that this was certainly the career I wanted. Once I turned 19, I began volunteering at a local police detachment to see if this job would be the right fit for me. I loved the chance to give back to the community and looked up to police officers as my role models and then made the choice to join. My family was supportive but did have a few hesitations when I decided to join the RCMP, knowing that there was a chance I could be posted anywhere in Canada. But once they knew how much I wanted this career, they were fully supportive.
Did you face any hurdles during your training? What is the advice that you would like to share with those women who want to enter into policing? How do you balance professional and personal life?
Fortunately I didn’t encounter many roadblocks. I joined the force at a very young age, so being away from home for six months while in training was an eye opener. Policing is not always easy, you often see and are exposed to people dealing with trauma or going through hard struggles in their lives. You are not always viewed positively in society and coping with these changes for many officers can be tough. But I have a great team and co-workers who make the job enjoyable.
My advice to any women joining, or thinking of joining the police – go for it, every day is exciting and challenging. I am a mother to two young daughters and married to another police officer. I’m fortunate to have good work/life balance in the job I have today and my policing family have been very supportive.
Please elaborate on your current role as Community Safety and Support officer. What are some of the main community programs and youth programs under you? You were also the main force behind launching Car Yankee 30 program, if you could share some details as to why such program was needed? How has been the response so far?
As part of my current role, I oversee the following teams: Community Response policing units, Youth Section, Surrey Outreach Team, Diversity Unit and Emergency Planning. Some of our programs include: youth sports and mentorship programs within schools, outreach to diverse communities and gang awareness and prevention programs. The Yankee Car 30 Program was initiated by the officers within the Surrey RCMP Youth Section – I’d like to give them credit for the excellent work they have done. We began this program to support youth that are ‘at risk,’ and also provide options and support to the families of these youth.
This program is a partnership between the Surrey RCMP and Ministry of Children & Family Development (MCFD). One of our Youth Section police officer is paired with a MCFD Youth Probation worker to ensure local youth on probation are complying with court order conditions. This team also supports youth and their parents/guardians by providing access and referrals to other programs and services for high risk youth and their families. Our goal is to reduce youth criminality and provide support to parents. We are approximately 6 months into this programs and so far the response and feedback from our partners has been well received.
You were also part of Coffee with Cops program. What according to you were some of the biggest concerns the community shared during your conversations with them?
Coffee with Cops is one of my favourite programs, we have a great turnout and generally the questions asked are range from anywhere to: police recruitment based questions, to persons asking how they can make their communities safer. Often times, our citizens just want to come out and meet the police officers and show their appreciation.
One of the biggest issue the community still faces is gangs and gun violence. We know schools, governments, RCMP even the community is running so many programs to stop youth entering into drugs and gangs. But we still have not been able to control it. Where do you think we need more improvement?
Answer: Surrey RCMP continues to hold public safety as it’s number one priority. Advancing our gang enforcement and prevention programs has been at the forefront of our public safety strategy. We have been actively engaging the community through our youth programs, diversity unit, and pro-active enforcement initiatives. Although the public perception of crime remains high, crime statistics for Surrey, show that we are achieving positive results. Violent crime is trending down, the number of incidents of shots fired is going down, so we are heading in the right direction.
Do you think Surrey getting its own police force will help? What is your take on it?
As the contracted police force for the City of Surrey, our duty is to focus on public safety. At the detachment level, we don’t participate in the decision making, or contract process. My job as an Inspector in the Surrey RCMP is to lead my team through this time and ensure we continue to deliver a high level of police service to the community and focus on public safety.
What is your message to the Surrey community looking for an answer from the police force when it comes to their safety?
As your police force, we will work diligently to ensure public safety. Take advantage of the programs offered by your local police such as: Block Watch, our parent/youth based programs or reach out and call us or meet us at our many community events. Many of our programs are listed on our website: www.surrey.rcmp-grc.gc.ca. And most importantly please report any crime or concerns you may have. We need the support of the public and community to report crime – the public is our eyes and ears.
What is your message to the families who are struggling to protect their family members from being part of gangs?
To help and support families, we have initiated a Parent Helpline. The Surrey RCMP Parent Helpline contact number is: 604-599-7800. Parents can get in touch with our officers and youth counsellors who will be able to assist with resources, intervention and home visits. Parents who call the helpline and leave a message stating their name, phone number and concerns. Within 24 hours contact and support will be provided to families in either English or Punjabi. I encourage families to seek support early and speak to us about or youth based programs within schools.