OUR VIEW: Surrey RCMP’s overtime costs a sign of trouble

In three of the four years reviewed, the city’s bill for overtime costs in policing ran a total of $4.6 million over budget.

Surrey Mayor Linda Hepner is pleased with findings of a recent audit that the city “did a good job” overall in managing its responsibilities under the Police Act and Municipal Police Unit Agreement.

The Office of the Auditor General for Local Government of British Columbia looked at city hall’s performance, referencing the years 2010 to 2014. The auditors didn’t concern themselves with whether the city has enough police officers. Nor was it an audit of the Surrey RCMP detachment’s operations.

The auditors noted that policing costs have been rising in the city. Between 2010 and 2013, they found, these costs rose from $96.4 million to $115 million – a 19.3 per cent increase.

That said, although Surrey’s policing costs are rising at a faster rate than that of the nation in general, its policing costs are still lower per capita.

Comparing police costs per capita in nearby cities also policed by the RCMP, between 2010 and 2013 Surrey had a 12 per cent increase, Langley Township seven per cent, Burnaby three per cent, Coquitlam four per cent and Richmond five per cent.

Of note, the audit found that in three of the four years reviewed, the city’s bill for overtime costs in policing ran a total of $4.6 million over budget. The auditors attributed this to “vacancy rate” and the record number of homicides – 25 – in 2013.

We wonder, however, how much of that overtime was also the result of policing community events and city events like the regional economic summits. At any rate, once the 100 new police officers promised by the federal government have finally arrived in Surrey, that overtime bill should go down considerably. Right?

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