The Surrey Police Service had a special swearing-in ceremony on Friday afternoon at city hall, but even that generated controversy.
All told, 46 police officers were sworn-in to the new force poised to replace the Surrey RCMP, welcomed in by Mayor Doug McCallum, Chief Constable Norm Lipinski and Judge Kimberley Arthur-Leung.
The founding members took their oath as required under Section 70 of the Police Act. Eleven civilian employees were also formally welcomed into the organization.
This was the fledgling police force’s first swearing-in ceremony as it continues to embark on the biggest police-force transition in Canadian history.
“This was an important event for our officers and civilian staff. There is something truly special about taking an oath to protect and serve your community,” Lipinski said, adding the “SPS continues to move forward and the dedication of all of our staff is inspiring.”
McCallum, who also serves as chairman of the police board, said he’s “so impressed by the individuals who have joined the Surrey Police Service. They have all chosen to come to the Surrey Police Service in its early days to be a part of building a modern, innovative, and progressive police service for the citizens of Surrey.”
The ceremony was held in Council Chambers at city hall. Surrey resident Debi Johnston expressed dissatisfaction that the public wasn’t informed about the timing of the event beforehand. She called it a “secret ceremony.”
“Doug McCallum has refused to allow councillors to meet in-person for council meetings citing ‘Covid’ yet allowed this smoke and mirrors ceremony to take place with many in attendance including only four of the eight elected city councillors,” she said. “You are not operational meaning you have sworn in folks for administrative duty.”
Ian MacDonald, spokesman for the SPS, said they’d done a “dry run’ on Wednesday and realized there wouldn’t be enough seating for the public because of COVID-19 rules. Family members were also not able to attend, he said.
“It was a really difficult decision,” he said. The ceremony was live-streamed to family, though. Asked why not live-stream to the public as well, MacDonald said he expected some “blow-back” for not doing that but noted some of the officers will work in covert units. “This is what we were up against.”
“We couldn’t live-stream, in live time, to the public because we had several officers, because of their experience, that were in those covert units, or at least had been, and with all likelihood that they’re going to continue their careers in those same kind of capacities,” MacDonald said.
“You’re not going to go okay live-stream, okay now we’ve got to shut down the live-stream where we have to go to black stream for the next two swearing ins, and then we’re back to the live screen again, and then we cue the MC to not announce the next name, we’re going to go to blackness and play muzak, elevator muzak while we take a little break – it’s just, it would have been a logistical nightmare.”