Surrey city manager Vincent Lalonde said the city is not expecting a reversal from the provincial government on council’s decision to stick with the RCMP as Surrey’s police of jurisdiction.
A first monthly progress report on maintaining the RCMP as Surrey’s police of jurisdiction came before city council Monday related to the Mounties’ restaffing plan and accompanied by a heavily redacted report from the director of police services to the ministry of public safety and solicitor general.
“Where we stand right now is we got clear direction from council to maintain the RCMP as POJ, the ministry said it was the city’s decision but set conditions, and so we’re actively meeting the conditions and that’s the genesis of this report, is to highlight to council how we’re meeting the conditions,” Lalonde told council. “So, we’re not expecting necessarily a reversal.”
Council voted to receive the report on a 6-3 vote, with councillors Mandeep Nagra, Doug Elford and Linda Annis voting against. Annis tried to make a motion to defer receiving the report “until after the solicitor general has made his decision,” but Mayor Brenda Locke ruled it out of order.
“I would call that motion out of order simply because we’ve already made the decision,” Locke said. “This is a simple progress report on the decision that was made, now three times in this council, so I will call that out of order because I think this is a progress report that is describing what council’s direction was to staff and so with that we’ll move forward on the vote.”
A corporate report notes that this first “update” from the RCMP includes confirmation that the plan is approved by “E” Division’s commanding officer, as well as a “structured cadence for the onboarding” of Surrey Police Service officers and recruits, RCMP cadets and “other experienced police officers” over 18 months and 232 projected hires by the spring of 2025. The July staffing update confirms “the following individuals are in process as part of the restaffing plan” so far: Eight RCMP cadets to join the Surrey detachment by August, 15 SPS officers in the hiring process, two “experienced police officers” transferring in and 81 SPS officers who’ve indicated they’ll join the RCMP.
The corporate report – from Surrey’s general manager of community services Terry Waterhouse, general manager of corporate services Rob Costanzo and Kam Grewal, general manager of finance – also notes that city staff is preparing a redacted version of a confidential report council had received prior to its decision June 15 on a 6-3 vote to keep the RCMP, “which contains highly sensitive police information, for public release” and also notes “the redacted version will be released publicly once available.”
Included in the July 5 update is confirmation two required RCMP “staff resources” to provide support to the project have been appointed and an updated RCMP restaffing plan complying with binding requirements.
“The binding requirement for the City to provide Individualized HR Plans for Surrey Police Service members falls outside the authority of the City and requires an adapted process to allow the City to comply with the binding requirement,” the corporate report states, “and staff continue to advocate for the creation of a collaborative process with the province to move forward on council direction.”
The Surrey re-staffing plan update to council stats the RCMP “is confident it can re-staff the detachment within a 12-month timeframe.”
“To facilitate the end of the SPS policing transition, the RCMP will implement its re-staffing strategy, hiring a minimum of 182 police officers over the course of 18 months,” it states. “Any hires additional to the 182 can be distributed elsewhere within the Division if required.”
However, Surrey Police Union spokesman Ryan Buhrig says the union “strongly refutes” the claim that 81 SPS officers are interested in patching over to the RCMP, noting that last year 95 per cent of its members balked at the idea.
“In two and a half years, no Surrey Police members have joined the Surrey RCMP, and only two have joined the RCMP in other detachments,” Buhrig told the Now-Leader. “These two members previously worked for the RCMP in Saskatchewan and joined Surrey Police to return to British Columbia. They left after being given a priority posting by the RCMP in the interior.
“It is unfortunate that some parties are attempting to interfere with Minister Farnworth’s decision. We respect the minister’s authority and look forward to a final decision soon,” he said.
During Monday’s council meeting Assistant Commissioner Brian Edwards, in charge of the Surrey RCMP, said there’s a list of 81 officers that he and one more undisclosed person in the detachment has of SPS officers who are prepared to join the RCMP “and I believe that list is valid at this point in time of names that have indicated, and we’ve confirmed, will join the RCMP if in fact the decision is finalized by the provincial government.”
Coun. Rob Stutt asked if there’s a mechanism for Mounties to work under SPS command and Edwards replied “at this point there is no legal mechanism” for that.
Coun. Doug Elford said he thinks council is “putting the cart before the horse here. We could be looking at a decision which would require Surrey to pivot to the SPS.”
“I think we’re moving in the wrong direction right now and I can’t support a report like this. I think it needs to be deferred until a decision is made.”
Coun. Mandeep Nagra echoed that. “I just want to request the provincial government to make a decision on this so at least we can move forward. We have, you know, said enough and we all know where we all stand and now it’s up to the provincial government to make the decision. I urge the government to make the decision as soon as they can so that we can move on.”
Coun. Pardeep Kooner asked city staff how much taxes will go up if Surrey is forced to go with the SPS.
“In terms of tax increases, I can translate what that difference between the two police forces will be on an ongoing basis ast my fingertips I can tell you that again it’s likely going to be in the realm of $35 million to $40 million per year every year,” Grewal replied, “and then that translates into a tax increase that will be necessary to cover that difference – or the other option for council consideration of course would be service level cuts – but from a purely tax-increase perspective, to solve that financial shortfall we are looking in the range of nine to 10 per cent.”
Grewal added that covers operating costs only. “It would include capital in the sense of the minor capital that’s ongoing, body-worn cameras, ammunition, guns, vehicles but it would not include anything substantial in nature, such as for example a training facility.”