The City of Surrey has refused to pay 10 Surrey Police Service recruits and B.C.’s premier is not happy about it.
The latest chapter in Surrey’s policing saga is “incredibly frustrating,” says B.C. Premier David Eby.
“These are folks who are willing to go out and do the difficult work of policing in their communities,” Eby said this morning (Jan. 11) at an unrelated news conference. “Surrey deserves a safe community and police officers need to get paid for Pete’s sake.”
The Surrey Police Service Union says the City of Surrey told the union that it would not add any new people into the payroll and benefits system. Union president Rick Stewart said the “shocking decision” is just an attempt to restrict the hiring of new SPS officers.
“We understand Mayor Locke disagrees with the policing transition, but taking her frustration out on new Surrey Police recruit officers is a step too far,” Stewart said, adding that the police union will be covering the recruits’ pay and benefits in the interim on behalf of the SPS.
Meanwhile, Eby says the issue is a priority for his government.
“We will find a way to address this issue, make sure those officers get paid and we will not allow public safety to be compromised for a political campaign.”
Eby also took the opportunity to slam Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke over her ongoing $500,000 public relations campaign that opposes the B.C. NDP government’s order that they must transition to SPS.
The campaign includes social media posts, a direct-mail householder, and electronic billboard displays. It also includes a city-commissioned survey conducted by polling firm Leger, which the Locke says proves that nearly half of those polled would prefer to keep the RCMP, while only 29 per cent of respondents want to continue with the Surrey police transition.
“I understand the desire of the mayor to spend taxpayer money on advertising on leaflets on billboards on lawyers to fight this you know, I disagree with it. But you know, that’s her business.”
Lawyer Peter German is an advisor to the City of Surrey on policing. He told the Now-Leader that the “situation is quite simple.”
German said on Dec. 19, the City of Surrey advised the Surrey Police Service that they were over budget and should not be hiring any more officers.
“They went ahead and apparently hired 10 more officers,” German said.
“The Surrey Police Board has provided the city with a proposed budget for 2024 and if they want to do more hiring, then they have to have a budget to do it.”
But the Surrey Police Board’s Melissa Granum said the hirings were within the authorized staffing levels.
“The Board is working with an authorized 2023 strength of 346 sworn police officers and the new recruits who were recently hired fit within that envelope,” Granum stated in an email to the Now-Leader.
“We currently have 344 police officers, with 218 of those deployed into operations in Surrey and an additional 56 waiting for their deployments.
“We thank the Surrey Police Union and the Province of BC for their support in guaranteeing that all new SPS employees will be paid on time, now and into the future until this issue with the City is resolved.”
Meanwhile, three councillors are calling the city’s decision to withhold salaries from 10 SPS recruits inexcusable.
“This is not just a failure of leadership, it’s a direct threat to the safety of Surrey’s residents,” Safe Surrey Coalition’s Doug Elford stated in an email.
SSC councillor Mandeep Nagra also took aim at Locke’s recent PR campaign.
“In the face of rising gang violence and shootings, Mayor Brenda Locke has diverted half a million taxpayer dollars to her own partisan political ad campaign instead of funding more boots on the ground. This is an egregious misallocation of taxpayer resources and an abuse of power.”
Finally, Surrey First councillor Linda Annis said Locke’s decision to not put the SPS recruits on the payroll reinforces the “level of petty politics” surrounding her opposition to the transition.
“It’s absolutely ridiculous that the mayor continues to throw up roadblocks to the transition, wasting time and money,” Annis stated in a news release.
“While she won’t pay for the new recruits, she has found $500,000 for her politically motivated anti-SPS public relations plan. I’m embarrassed as a councillor and as a resident of Surrey that the mayor has treated these new recruits this way.
“What a terrible welcome to our city.”
– With files from Anna Burns