Opponents of Surrey’s policing transition launched counter-strikes Wednesday after the Surrey Police Service announced Tuesday that a first group of 50 officers will be patrolling the streets in tandem with the RCMP by November’s end.
The SPS said the officers will be assigned positions within the Surrey RCMP, which the SPS is to replace, during a phased transition that will see more officers follow throughout 2022 and 2023. Ian MacDonald, spokesman for the new force, said the SPS officers will be armed and performing regular police duties alongside their RCMP counterparts.
“The law enforcement community as a whole needs this to be a collaborative effort, a cooperative effort, and we want to make the transition as smooth for the benefit of the citizens in Surrey,” he said. “Next year you can anticipate that we’re probably going to have 200-plus members in various cohorts of different sizes throughout that year, and so on. It will be a continual process.”
“At some point in time, we will have operational command.”
MacDonald said the SPS officers will be using SPS equipment. “The plan is for us to be providing equipment for our members,” he said. “But that being said, it’s going to depend a little bit on the circumstances. And these are some of the finer tuning points that are going to be worked out.
“Our plan is that SPS officers would be equipped – I’m talking about uniforms, firearms, all those things – would be equipped by the SPS.”
Surrey councillors Brenda Locke and Jack Hundial, of Surrey Connect, issued a press release Tuesday stating that the earliest the RCMP can be given notice is next year and after that “they then serve for an additional two years making it 2024 before any transition actually takes place.”
That, Locke and Hundial say, means SPS officers, “if and when deployed,” will for several years be reporting to the Surrey RCMP.
“The fact that only 50 officers can be deployed speaks volumes to the lack of interest from officers signing up,” Surrey Connect’s statement reads. “Most officers are staying with their home agencies, understanding this transition may stop after the next civic election on October 15, 2022.”
Locke vows if elected mayor to slam the brakes on the policing transition from the Surrey RCMP to Surrey Police Service, to which the Surrey Police Board replied in a statement that the mayor and council cannot do so without approval from the provincial government.
Meantime, Brian Sauvé, president of the National Police Federation, said SPS’s announcement confirms that almost three years after council voted in 2018 to replace the Surrey RCMP with a city-made police force, and nine months after hiring SPS Chief Constable Norm Lipinski, the SPS still “does not have a clear transition plan.”
The NPF is the bargaining agent for nearly 20,000 RCMP officers. Despite the Nov. 30 goal, Sauvé noted, the SPS will not have a human resources plan until “at least” Dec. 31.
“No clearly defined reporting structures have been offered or are being made available, either, which presents real threats to the safety of Surrey RCMP Members, the newly hired SPS officers, and most importantly, Surrey residents. The statement also references future potential secondments considered for 2022 and 2023,” his statement reads.
In response, MacDonald said, “In all due respect, I don’t know where they’re getting this. Certainly I can say the trilateral group that makes the decisions and represents every level of government through this transition is certainly satisfied with the progress of the SPS transition.”
The trilateral group is Public Safety Canada, the provincial government and the City of Surrey.
“So if somebody else that isn’t part of the trilateral is not pleased with the SPS, I would refer them back to the trilateral group and say if you’ve got three levels of government and a collaborative effort between the SPS and Surrey RCMP, people that are external to that may have a wide array of opinions, but what really counts from my standpoint and I believe the standpoint of the SPS, is how are we viewed by the trilateral group and how are we being viewed by the levels of government that ultimately make the decisions,” MacDonald said.
The Surrey Connect press release notes that the SPS has no agreement in place with the National Police Federation. To that, MacDonald noted that the NPF is the union that represents the RCMP. “They’re not a union that represents the SPS, so what purpose would that serve I’m not sure. We have our own union now. And so, obviously, steps will be taken between management and the union to carve out a first collective agreement.”
The SPS revealed Tuesday that the Surrey Police Union has been officially certified by the British Columbia Labour Relations Board, with Rick Stewart as interim president. Stewart served as president of the Abbotsford Police Union before joining the SPS. CUPE 402 continues to represent the unionized civilian staff.
Surrey Connect also said in its press release that no trilateral agreement had been signed or is in place “as of August 4.”
To that, MacDonald replied, “All I can say is there is advancement after advancement by the trilateral committee. Why would the trilateral committee give us a deployment date if there wasn’t a collaborative and progressive approach to the transition?”