Dozens gathered outside Surrey City Hall on Monday (Sept. 16) as a show of support for the Surrey RCMP. Ivan Scott is the leader of the Keep the RCMP in Surrey group, that says it’s garnered more than 20,000 signatures so far. (Photos: Amy Reid)

Dozens gathered outside Surrey City Hall on Monday (Sept. 16) as a show of support for the Surrey RCMP. Ivan Scott is the leader of the Keep the RCMP in Surrey group, that says it’s garnered more than 20,000 signatures so far. (Photos: Amy Reid)

Policing transition

VIDEO: Surrey RCMP supporters make noise during rally outside city hall

‘Keep the RCMP in Surrey’ leader Ivan Scott says municipal force ‘not a done deal’

There were whistles, airhorns and chanting outside Surrey City Hall Monday night, as part of a rally held in support of the Surrey RCMP amid the city’s move toward transitioning to a municipal force.

“Keep the RCMP! Keep the RCMP!” a group of about 40 protesters chanted shortly after 6:30 p.m..

Dubbed “We Will Be Heard,” the rally was set to run from 6 to 8 p.m., as a public hearing ran inside starting at 7 p.m.

The event was organized by Ivan Scott, a South Surrey man who has been running collecting signatures for a petition to keep the Surrey RCMP over a municipal force.

“We’re representing the 20-odd thousand people who have signed our petition at this stage,” Scott told the Now-Leader outside city hall. “So we owe it to them to try to get the message out there, from all over Surrey. We thought we’d come and make it a bit central and let our message be heard.”

To date, Scott says the “Keep the RCMP in Surrey” petition has more than 20,000 signatures. Earlier this month he set a goal of 50,000 for the petition “as this is approximately 5,000 signatures more than Mayor McCallum received in votes” in the 2018 Surrey civic election.

This past July, Surrey council denied a request from Scott to speak as a delegation.

Scott said “he’s in contact with the councillors that are not with the mayor at this particular point in time.”

“They’ve been very supportive of what we do,” he said. “They’re not out here this evening but we’re sure they’re with us in spirit. We want them to hear us inside here.”

Scott, whose son is a member of the Surrey RCMP, intends on tabling a hard copy of the petition at the B.C. legislature in Victoria, and plans to send a copy to former attorney general Wally Oppal, who has been appointed by the provincial government to oversee a task force evaluating the City of Surrey’s proposed transition plan.

Scott said he thinks there is still time to change the decision of the provincial government, after it approved Surrey’s wish to transition to a municipal force late last month.

“And there better be,” he said. “We’re a force out there now speaking for a lot of people. As we go along, we garner signatures at the rate of about 25 per hour per person that’s doing our collecting. There’s a lot of anger out there, and there’s a lot of frustration. No, this is not a done deal as far as we’re concerned. We’ll take it to whatever extents we need to do to get it.”

READ ALSO: Surrey council denies pro-RCMP delegation

The provincial government approved Surrey’s plan to establish a municipal force on Aug. 22, an effort that was put in motion on the first day Mayor Doug McCallum and the rest of the new city council was sworn in last November.

A joint statement from Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth and Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum says the minister gave the approval required to establish Surrey’s municipal police department.

“To ensure all key issues are addressed and all complex details are in place to facilitate an orderly transition, a joint project team has been struck,” the statement says. “The joint transition committee, chaired by the Hon. Wally Oppal, will work expeditiously to provide advice to the Director of Police Services through to the Solicitor General relating to the establishment of Surrey’s municipal police department.”

READ ALSO: Surrey reacts to policing plan getting the green light

During a news conference, Farnworth said the transition is an “iterative process that requires substantial work that will proceed in phases.”

“As this work progresses, and prior to any decision being made on any future phases of the process, public safety will remain a priority. It is essential that adequate and effective policing is maintained throughout the transition and beyond.”

He said the joint committee will “deal with every single question” that relates to the policing transition. The committee, Farnworth said, “will work to ensure all key issues are addressed and all complete details are considered in the transition plan.”

Asked if he thinks the transition will be completed by 2021, Farnworth said “that’s the work that the committee has to undertake.”

Lone Surrey First Councillor Linda Annis – who had called for a referendum on the transition – issued a statement after the announcement saying she is “disappointed that the province hasn’t provided an opportunity for Surrey taxpayers to have their say.”

Councillor Brenda Locke – who split from the mayor’s Safe Surrey Coalition earlier this year over his so-called “my-way-or-the-highway approach” – said she figured the approval “was bound to happen.”

“Now it gets real. This is where the rubber hits the road,” she told the Now-Leader on Aug. 22. “Now, the people who wrote the report have to fully disclose what they mean. The public has to know what the numbers are. This will now create that place where they can really talk about what the costs are going to look like to the citizens and residents of Surrey. You can’t tell right now.”

READ ALSO: Surrey RCMP pensions will be transferable to new police force, city says

SEE MORE: First look at Surrey’s policing transition report

The City of Surrey’s proposed transition plan to convert from RCMP states the force will “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.”

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

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.

The transition report suggests a new municipal force in Surrey would have 805 police officers, 325 civilian positions and 20 Community Safety Personnel.

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

SEE ALSO: Linda Hepner flunks Surrey’s police transition plan