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LETTER: Unfounded statements about Surrey policing costs reek of crass election politicking

Surrey mayoral candidate and her slate are clearly not familiar with how police finances work
The president of the Surrey Police Service Union is taking exception to the ‘politicking’ surrounding policing costs. (Surrey Now-Leader file photo)

The Editor,

Re: “Sticking with RCMP would save taxpayers $520M over next 4 years, Surrey Connect claims,” the Now-Leader online.

I was disappointed to read recent statements by certain municipal candidates regarding the cost differences between the RCMP and Surrey Police Service (SPS). Any suggestion that Surrey can save half a billion dollars over four years in policing costs clearly indicates that those making these statements are not familiar with how police finances work for either independent or contracted services.

In creating this falsehood of a half billion-dollar difference between two policing models, the author – a Chartered Professional Accountant and council candidate – used aggressive, inaccurate, and unfounded information about the number of police officers working in Surrey and the amount of capital expenditures associated to SPS.

She ignored the fact that the RCMP also requires capital expenditures and neglected to consider RCMP wage increases. These are but a few examples of the erroneous assumptions that were not sourced in any meaningful way or fact-checked.

As many already know, the RCMP recently settled a new collective agreement that, rightfully, brings their officers close to par with municipal policing colleagues. These wage increases alone will have a significant impact on costs currently seen by most municipalities who contract to the RCMP.

The common reason the RCMP is considered ‘cheaper’ is the well-known “10 per cent subsidy” for municipalities. This subsidy is more than offset by other divisional administrative billed to Surrey that Surrey has zero control over. For our city, the amount is in the range of $20M, more than the 10 per cent subsidy.

In addition, the RCMP has the right to redeploy up to 10 per cent of members to provincial and federal policing priorities, which means they are not working in Surrey, for Surrey residents and businesses.

Based on the above, one can argue with confidence that there is no significant cost difference between the RCMP and SPS (or any other municipal police service for that matter), however a municipal service comes with civilian oversight, increased public accountability, and considerably more transparency.

Making such inflammatory statements about the cost of a new service delivery model and the impact on property taxes can only be described as crass election politicking. If municipal policing was so outrageously expensive compared to the RCMP, why wouldn’t every major city in Canada not be contracting this service out?

Meanwhile, both B.C. and Alberta are looking at new, independent provincial police service models. The fact is that Surrey is the only comparable municipality in Canada that doesn’t have its own stand-alone police service.

Logic would tell you the costs are not substantively different between the two, particularly for a city the size of Surrey, but the benefits of a local police service are significant.

Rick Stewart, President, Surrey Police Union

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