Thanks, but no thanks.
That’s the message to Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke from 275 of 293 Surrey Police Service officers who’ve signed a pledge saying they have no intention of joining the “toxic” RCMP if the process to reverse the SPS policing transition to keep the Surrey RCMP as the city’s police of jurisdiction goes ahead.
The Surrey Police Union pledge, released Nov. 10, says 94 per cent of its members have declared “No Intention” of joining the RCMP if the SPS ceases to exist.
Locke on election night Oct. 15 said in her victory speech that she and her team have a “great plan” to keep the Surrey RCMP as the city’s police of jurisdiction, adding, “We will not leave any of the SPS officers behind, we will pick them up.”
She reiterated this in her inauguration speech on Nov. 7, at city hall.
Locke, who ran her Surrey Connect campaign on a pledge to halt the transition to the SPS, said to applause that the “uncertainty of policing in Surrey will come to an end. Surrey’s RCMP has and will continue to be the police of jurisdiction of this city,” she said to applause. The newly elected mayor said “SPS officers and civilian staff will be cared for. It has been no secret that Surrey has been in dire need of more police officers and that shortfall will be made up starting now, starting with you.”
The SPS pledge, in response, from its “proud” members says those who’ve signed it chose to become a member of the SPS because they are “committed to upholding public safety for all Surrey residents.”
“I joined in good faith to contribute to Surrey, yet a highly divisive political climate is directly impacting my personal and professional lives,” the SPS pledge reads. “I declare that if the Surrey Police Service ceases to exist, I have no intention to apply nor to join any R.C.M.P. detachment as my next career move. The toxic work environment, a lack of local decision-making, instability with regards to staying in Surrey and an absence of accountability, are the reasons behind my decision.”
The Surrey Police Union press release says this has “dashed” Locke’s hopes that many of its officers will cross over to the RCMP.
SPU President Rick Stewart said the officers “voluntarily signed this declaration because of a number of specific reasons related to the RCMP, and as such, Mayor Locke’s hiring plan shows no regard for the will of our members” and “the attraction of working for a Surrey-based municipal police force remains as one of the main factors behind our successful recruitment thus far.”
Locke reiterated on Thursday that the work is already underway, and city staff are preparing a report for the solicitor general. “We are going to be seeing the first of that on Monday,” she said, referring to the Nov. 14 council meeting.
“I would tell you that quite frankly I’m disappointed with this tactic that the SPS union has taken and as I said in my statement, this plan will be people-centric.
“There are opportunities with the RCMP and so people will make their decisions moving forward so I think all that will take on whatever role it takes on later on,” Locke told the Now-Leader. “It’s a new day for Surrey and we’re going to do exactly what the voter had asked and so we’ve moving forward on that. But you know, we’ve got to get beyond the back-and-forth and that’s important. I know we all want to have a shared goal.”
That goal, she said, is keeping residents safe.
The Now-Leader has also reached out to Surrey RCMP Assistant Commissioner Brian Edwards for comment.
Meantime, Brian Sauvé, president of the National Police Federation, said policing “should not be politicized.
“The police transition in Surrey has been a polarizing issue. However, the Members of the Surrey RCMP have shown dedication and commitment throughout, and have been working seamlessly with their SPS colleagues which is a testament to their professionalism.
He noted that the provincial government has asked the City of Surrey to develop a plan for the RCMP to remain as the police service of choice for Surrey.
“The NPF eagerly awaits that plan. We will remain respectful of that process and the decision of Surrey voters on the future of policing, and we encourage all parties to do the same,” Sauvé said.
He added that the public’s support of police “is paramount” and Surrey Mounties “are and will continue to work alongside their SPS colleagues, responding to calls and supporting the local community, where they both live and serve.
“They, like all police, deserve our deepest respect to carry out their duties unencumbered by politics and bias to support public safety,” Sauvé said Thursday.
“We extend our utmost thanks and respect to our Members and those of the SPS who have served Surrey residents with professionalism, care, and commitment through the past four years during extremely challenging and uncertain times. The residents of Surrey have and continue to express similar sentiments and support.”