An example of a Surrey Police cruiser showcased at Mayor Doug McCallum’s State of the City Address at Civic Hotel on May 7. (Photo: Amy Reid)

Surrey spent $15K on police cruiser prototype for a force not yet approved

Mayor Doug McCallum showcased the vehicle in May, outside his State of the City Address

The Now-Leader has learned the City of Surrey spent $15,851.64 on a Surrey Police Department vehicle prototype, showcased outside Mayor Doug McCallum’s State of the City Address in May.

The cost for the “temporary decals” are broken down as follows: $5,775 for graphic design services; $4,700.64 for production and application of decals, and $5,376 for a three-month lease of the vehicle.

According to city staff, the vehicle “has not been fitted out as a police vehicle” but instead “had temporary decals applied to be used during the City’s consultation events to gather feedback from the public on the proposed branding for the proposed Surrey Police Department.”

McCallum said Thursday (June 20) that the city has a budget that goes “towards the transition,” and the cost of the temporary decals is part of the budget. He added that it was “a pretty reasonable amount.”

However, lone Surrey First Councillor Linda Annis said spending “that kind of money as a marketing tool is, in my opinion, is not good use of taxpayers money.” She said there was also a separate cost for other marketing materials.

“I think it’s far too soon to be producing marketing materials like that,” she said. “The report has not yet been approved from Victoria. It’s not a done deal. We shouldn’t be investing money on the Surrey police force to market it until such time that the provincial government either gives us a yes or a no.”

Councillor Laurie Guerra, who ran with McCallum on his Safe Surrey Coalition slate, told the Now-Leader, that it was “a brave, gutsy move” to put the cruiser out there to the public.

“I think that probably would have been worth its weight in gold.”

The cruiser raised eyebrows when it was revealed at the May 7 event, seeing as the provincial government has not yet approved the city’s proposed shift to a municipal force.

Inside, during his speech at Civic Hotel, McCallum also played a video showcasing uniforms for the proposed force.

At the time, Annis took issue with the mayor unveiling uniforms and police cruisers.

“I know that’s part of the marketing and part of the sales pitch for switching the police but really at the end of the day the sales pitch should be how are we going to feel safer by making the switch,” she told the Now-Leader.

Since then, the City of Surrey has submitted its proposed transition plan to the provincial government for approval, but no decision has yet been made.

SEE ALSO: McCallum says Surrey Police officers will be patrolling streets by July 2020

After the report was submitted to the province – following months of speculation and controversy – it was publicly released on June 3.

The City of Surrey’s proposed transition plan to convert from RCMP states the force would “go live” on April 1, 2021 and its operating costs will be $192.5 million that year.

That’s a 10.9 per cent increase from the $173.6 million the city projects the RCMP would cost that year. The report states that a unionization drive is underway within the RCMP and if achieved, “the gap between the cost of the Surrey RCMP and the cost of the Surrey PD would be eliminated.”

Scroll down to read the full report.

There are also an estimated $39.2 million in start-up costs.

Between 2019-2021, the plan proposes to spend $11.8 million on recruiting and equipment, $7.6 million on IT systems and facilities and $0.4 million on vehicle transition, totalling $19.8 million.

The remaining $19.4 million in start-up costs will pay for a “phased staff transition”: $3.3 million in 2019, $8.7 million in 2020, $7.1 million in 2021 and $0.3 million in 2022.

READ ALSO: Surrey policing report a “disappointment,” Annis says

While the proposed municipal force would have fewer officers, the report says it would have more staff overall.

Currently, Surrey RCMP has 843 members although the city report says 51 of those positions are vacant, meaning a “funded strength” of 792 officers. There are also 302 City of Surrey employees supporting the RCMP.

Surrey RCMP, however, says they don’t have 51 vacant positions but that those positions are created to cover temporary vacancies, when needed, such as maternity or sick leaves.

“It is important to note that we currently have a full complement of police officers at Surrey Detachment,” Surrey RCMP said in an emailed statement after the report’s release.

ut, the new force would have “more boots on the ground,” according to the report, by way of a 16 per cent increase in frontline patrol officers.

“In addition, 84 per cent of Surrey PD officers will be constables,” the report notes. “The organizational structure of the Surrey PD was designed to maximize the number of frontline practitioners.”

The report states that staff will increase by five per cent overall, that there will be a 16 per cent increase in frontline officers and a 29 per cent increase in school liaison and youth officers.

“The Surrey PD will build strong relationships with Surrey youth and engage in gang prevention activities, youth diversion programs, and youth counselling referrals,” the report states.

Earlier this week, Councillor Brenda Locke slammed the plan, saying it would mean fewer officers for Sophie’s Place, a child advocacy centre dedicated to children who are victims of physical, mental or sexual abuse.

READ MORE: Surrey councillor says proposed police force ‘fails’ abused children

In February, city council endorsed a report that supported a “minimum of 11” officers from Surrey RCMP’s Special Victims Unit being stationed at Sophie’s Place.

“But the police report creating the Surrey Police Department now calls for just seven officers, with additional resources at ‘peak times’ coming from other parts of the proposed police department,” said Locke. “All this will take place with a new police force that will have fewer officers than our current RCMP detachment. I am deeply concerned that this lack of attention and solid commitment puts all of our children at risk.”

In an emailed statement, Mayor Doug McCallum said “the information Councillor Locke is providing amounts to fearmongering.”

“Staffing levels for Surrey Police, just as it is now for Surrey RCMP, is determined by the Chief of Police,” the statement reads.

“The proposed staffing model in the Surrey Policing Transition Report is a starting point and officers can be moved and added to sections as deemed appropriate by the SPD Chief. It should be noted that under the new SPD model the 7 officers dedicated to Sophie’s Place would be complimented by and is part of a larger Special Investigations Section.”

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