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Surrey RCMP, Surrey Police Service top bosses on passing the baton

‘As we build up, they scale down. That is the transition,’ says Chief Constable Norm Lipinski, of the Surrey Police Service
Assistant Commissioner Brian Edwards, in charge of the Surrey RCMP. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)

Surrey RCMP’s officer in charge says much has yet to be hammered out between the city’s police force of jurisdiction and the Surrey Police Service, which is to replace it, before the SPS moves to deploy 50 officers on or before November’s end to work in tandem with the Mounties as the policing transition forges ahead.

“The mechanism by which they’ll be deployed, the manner in which they’ll be deployed has not been determined,” Assistant Commissioner Brian Edwards told the Now-Leader on Thursday. “There is a plan that is in place to create the plan by which they will be deployed, so there is a lot of work to be done to determine what that will look like and what positions they will go into and the rest of the mechanics around the deployment have not been decided.”

This includes who will be patrolling in Surrey RCMP cars.

“The working with RCMP members in RCMP cars has not been discussed so those are the discussions that need to take place to determine the model that will will use to deploy these members,” Edward said. Asked if he has a position on this, Edwards said it’s “premature” to voice one because much needs to be discussed, “it needs to be collaborative,” and that there are “a number of issues that can impact this one way or another, because this has never been done to this degree before.

“It’s premature to provide a comment on it until I have all the information in front of me.”

READ ALSO: Surrey Police Service opponents push back on Nov. 30 cop deployment date

READ ALSO: First group of 50 Surrey Police Service cops to patrol streets by end of November

Earlier this week Ian MacDonald, spokesman for the SPS, told the Now-Leader that 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,” MacDonald said.

Edwards said while the trilateral committee – comprised of Public Safety Canada, the provincial government and City of Surrey – sets overall strategic objectives, over the next couple of months working groups will be making decisions on the “granular” details. “The trilateral group will not themselves decide on that level of detail,” he said.

As far as the morale of Surrey Mounties, in response to dealing with this transition over the past two and a half years and counting, Edwards noted his officers have driven down crime in that time, and despite call loads having increased this summer compared to last summer. “I’m just astoundingly proud of the men and women of this detachment, how day-in, day-out, how they continue to serve the citizens of this city. I mean that sincerely, in the face of this,” he said. “I think that really speaks to a culture that is there, a culture of service to this community.”

“To speculate on deployment models is not appropriate at this time because it creates a greater degree of uncertainty than we’re facing at this time,” he said. “The announcement doesn’t come as a surprise to me, I’m talking specifically about comments that have been made about working in police cars together, comments on how the deployment will unfold. That needs to be hammered out, and so comments to what it will look like are premature.”

Meanwhile, Chief Constable Norm Lipinski, in charge of the SPS, said there are roughly nine working groups each tasked with its own area of responsibility – finance, equipment, deployment and so forth.

“Talking about deployment to the front line, we’re ready to go, we feel this is totally doable by the end of November,” he said. “There is a plan, they have to see if all parties agree on the plan. That is to say, in each of those groups there is numerous steps, numerous tasks, that have been defined and given diary dates and who is responsible for those tasks, such as who’s going to be responsible for determining which equipment is going to be transferred over and by what time.”

Lipinski said the number of SPS officers being deploy to the city’s streets will “really expand” early next year. “We’ve ordered uniforms, we’ve ordered firearms, we’re putting together a training course and right now it’s a five-week training course, it’s just tentative but we just don’t hire people and set them up and put them out on the street. These officers will be in uniform with a Surrey patch. We will be having some Surrey police cars marked up, as you saw, etcetera. So it’s all a go, with full-on, in the sense of cars and equipment and training and uniforms for that date.

“Everything on our side is going very smoothly and of course Brian is not involved on the equipment side, in essence putting together the training package for us or on our equipment side, so that’s on us.”

Lipinski said all is on schedule and moving “quite nicely” on the SPS end thus far.

So on Nov. 30, if you call 911 you might have a Surrey Mountie and an SPS officer coming to your door. “It will make no difference, these are full-on police officers,” Lipinski said.

Chief Constable Norm Lipinski, in charge of the Surrey Police Service. (SPS photo)

He pointed out that this is no different than any of the integrated teams like ERT, IHIT or CFSEU, which are comprised of police officers from different departments throughout the Lower Mainland.

“No mistake about it, we’re going to be working shoulder-to-shoulder with the RCMP,” he said. “A lot of the hires that we’ve employed are going to be from the RCMP so in a way they may even know some of the people they’re showing up with.”

Lipinski told the Now-Leader on Thursday that the SPS officers who will be patrolling Surrey’s streets starting Nov. 30 will answer to Edwards “because it’s only 50 of them, and until we build up a lot of Surrey Police Service members. Then there will be, at some point it has to be determined, a change of command. Certainly Brian and I will work closely together on this.”

“This is the beginnings of an integrated team, and somebody’s got to be in charge, much life CFSEU, much like IHIT, so we are part of the fabric then we build up, scale up, and then we’ll determine when that change of command will occur,” Lipinski said. “I get asked by the media quite often about, ‘Oh, are we going to get along and all this sort of stuff.’ There’s only the SPS and the RCMP, and these integrated teams have five or seven different agencies, CFSEU, IHIT, ERT, the dog unit, many different agencies and it works, and it works extremely well.

“We’ve got just two and I look at it as the passing of the baton, as a transition, public safety will not be compromised, Brian and I will be working shoulder-to-shoulder, it’s part of an integrated team, he will being in charge. We’re going to make it work for the city of Surrey.”

As more Surrey Police Service officers report for duty and the scales eventually tip, Lipinski said, “it makes sense” there would be a change of command.

“We haven’t thought that far ahead,” he said. “Who knows, there could be dual command, I’m not sure, but it is clear if there is one commander, but there’s a number of different options that we can explore and we haven’t quite gone there yet as far as our discussions are concerned.

“I say to people who tell me ‘When is the transition?’ well the transition starts on November 30 if not before, because we are, as we build up, they scale down. That is the transition.”

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About the Author: Tom Zytaruk

I write unvarnished opinion columns and unbiased news reports for the Surrey Now-Leader.
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