On Tuesday (Jan. 26), less than one hour before the mayor’s first court appearance was set to start, a group of uniformed Surrey Police Service officers was recorded walking past a rally protesting taxpayer funds being used for Doug McCallum’s legal fees.
A Twitter storm ensued, with the Surrey Police Union’s president calling out since-deleted tweets from mayoral candidate Brenda Locke and her Surrey Connect slate that described the walk-by as “intimidating” and a “show of force.”
Around 1:20 p.m. a group of about a dozen officers walked up the steps from Occasions at the Pond restaurant by the courthouse and walked around the protest, which was made up of Keep the RCMP in Surrey supporters, and down 57 Avenue toward the Surrey detachment.
A 19-second video posted to the Now-Leader’s Twitter page, shows the officers keeping their distance from the protesters. Media from other outlets also rushed to get photos and video.
It was over shortly after.
About six hours later, the Surrey Connect Twitter account tweeted, “At McCallum’s 1st appearance for criminal charges the SPS arrive in a show of force (if hiring was better there would have been more) taking up the proud McCallum tradition of having Uber drivers ambushed.”
Locke, the mayoral candidate for Surrey Connect for the upcoming civic election, then quote-tweeted it, saying, “What! the @surreyps are now intimidating law abiding citizens. This is the scene prior to the @SPSBoard chairs’ (sic) 1st court appearance.”
Locke tagged journalists and her fellow Surrey Connect colleagues.
Both tweets were deleted sometime before 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, but not before being called out by Surrey Police Service media liaison Ian MacDonald and Surrey Police Union president Staff Sgt. Rick Stewart.
Disgraceful comments. Those are our new officers leaving restaurant next to courthouse where they where accosted by an unmasked Ivan @keep_bc. They then returned to the Surrey Det where they are completing their orientation before they go out and protect the citizens of Surrey. https://t.co/jTyQLGk84r— S/Sgt Rick Stewart, MOM (@RickStewartSPS) January 26, 2022
Extremely proud of our 12 newest front line SPS members for continuing with their orientation before hitting the road and protecting Surrey citizens. Good for you for avoiding distractions and petty politics.— Ian MacDonald (@Ian_A_MacDonald) January 26, 2022
MacDonald said “obviously we’re in a highly charged political environment,” but it was “well-known that we had 12 more members that were going through orientation at Surrey detachment.
“In fact, (Surrey RCMP Assistant Commissioner) Brian Edwards talked about it last week and then we reiterated it on Monday.”
“I was a little surprised – I don’t know – that some people wouldn’t be aware of that,” MacDonald explained.
He said for going to lunch and then coming back from that break getting “twisted into something nefarious … I would say it’s unbelievable, but we work in a highly politicized environment right now.”
Meantime, Stewart told the Now-Leader the comments were “ridiculous.”
“These were police officers returning to work after having lunch at a nearby restaurant. The courthouse is situated between the restaurant and their place of work. Their presence had absolutely nothing to do with the protest.”
He said the “false suggestion” by some politicians that the policing transition can be stopped is “creating an unhealthy and politically charged environment for our members, the RCMP members they serve alongside, and the community.”
As for the tweets, Stewart said “public servants like Brenda Locke should be held accountable for their actions.”
“She is deliberately trying to undermine the legitimacy of Surrey Police Service’s police officers. The majority of the citizens of Surrey see through her rhetoric and support all police officers serving their community.”
When asked about the tweets, Locke said the account is run by Surrey Connect’s campaign manager, but she “took the tweet down” when she said she heard it was a coincidence.
“All I know is I was talking to one of the people there and they said it just was a little intimidating. All of a sudden, they’ve got all this media and the police go walking by. They were slightly intimidated.”
She added SPS “probably should’ve looked at the calendars themselves and known this was not the best time for (them) to be in front of the courthouse.”
But will she acknowledge publicly, on her Twitter account, why those tweets were deleted?
“I never really thought about it. I mean, I could, but I didn’t really think to, no,” she said. “I think this was just a bad set of coincidences, and certainly, I read it wrong. There’s no doubt about that.”
Surrey Police Board executive director Melissa Granum, on behalf of the board, has since sent a letter to the members of Surrey Connect saying the board “believes that an apology is owed to the officers ridiculed in your tweet, which remained up for twelve hours.”
SPS Chief Const. Norm Lipinski and Stewart were included in the email.
“To disagree with the Surrey Police Service as an entity is your right, but to disparage sworn police officers without cause is a disservice to policing in Surrey and this country.”
We absolutely agree that @brendalockebc and @surreyconnect_ owe an apology. Politicking and spreading false information about police and this transition harms our members and the community they proudly serve. pic.twitter.com/nZrdjdj82O— Surrey Police Union (@surreypolunion) January 26, 2022
Later on Wednesday, the Safe Surrey Coalition – McCallum’s majority slate on council – tweeted that Locke and Surrey Connect should “do the right thing” and apologize. The tweet adds “law enforcement shouldn’t be used as poli pawns.”
McCallum’s first date in Surrey provincial court Tuesday on a charge of public mischief lasted all of three minutes, with no plea taken.
The matter has been put over to Feb. 22.
The drive-by smear of @SurreyPS officers by @brendalockebc & @surreyconnect_ is embarrassing & harmful to #SurreyBC's trust in law enforcement@safesurrey2018 is calling on Brenda & party to do the right thing & apologize; law enforcement shouldn't be used as poli pawns#bcpoli pic.twitter.com/6ATXy1R9jM— Safe Surrey Coalition (@safesurrey2018) January 26, 2022