News

Fewer officers just tip of the iceberg

Two officers per car shrinks force, unarmed community safety officers replacing real police, Surrey’s police numbers not in line with Vancouver’s

Surrey, BC: Plans for a Surrey Police Department not only reduce the number of officers from the current 843 to just 805, but the report sent to Victoria also contains example after example of a plan that shortchanges public safety in BC’s fastest growing city, says Councillor Linda Annis.

“The biggest shock was the overall reduction in the number of officers accompanied by an increase in costs,” noted Annis. “But, that’s just the tip of the iceberg because the report also contains other troubling plans and approaches that will not make Surrey safer.”

“To start with, the report’s budget is vague at best, with absolutely no details, something that should trouble every taxpayer. Then, there’s the idea of replacing police officers with unarmed community safety officers, something that was tried and rejected years ago because they often needed the support of frontline police officers when responding to calls. The fact is, we need 300 more sworn police officers for Surrey, particularly when you compare us to Vancouver.”

Annis said other items in the report that raise eyebrows include:

Number of Sworn Members Strength

  • The Surrey RCMP currently has 843 sworn members, with the RCMP backfilling any vacanciesresulting fromlong-term disability, vacation or the like from its larger regional contingent of officers. A Surrey Police Department with the proposed 805 officers will have similar vacancies, but with no obvious contingency to backfill. This proposed roll-back in Surrey’s policing numbers would never fly in Vancouver, something the Vancouver Police Department would never support in their city which already has 500 more officers than Surrey.

Wage Disparity

  • RCMP earn 15% – 20% less than municipal police. While the RCMP may become unionized at some point, this is not likely to happen over the next year or two. In addition, with more senior ranks, there is even a larger difference in compensation.

 Pensions

  • RCMP federal pensions are not portable to municipal police pensions, as a result the move to a municipal force will only be attractive to newer RCMP members or older members already eligible to collect their pensions.

 Police Board

  • The City of Surrey can already have a police board that is locally organized and sanctioned through the provincial government. Surrey does not need to wait for a municipal force, with a new board operating similarly to a municipal police board by setting the strategic direction of the RCMP in Surrey.

Running Parallel Police Departments

  • While the Mayor talks about running two parallel police departments during a lengthy transition, there are few details in the report. In fact, this idea has not been discussed or agreed to and there is nothing in the currentRCMPcontract detailing how a parallel approach might work or what its cost might be.
  • The report suggests bringing in members from other municipal police forces on a secondment basis during the transition. Assuming that could even be done, it means multiple policing agencies operating in Surrey with members who have no real day-to-day connection with the community.
  • In addition, there are no details on how to handle complex files which are currently being worked on by the RCMP, and how these files might be transitioned.

 Two Officer Cars

  • Using the municipal policing contract model means two officers per car, a Surrey Police Department would have 59 cars on the road at any given time, compared to 65 cars with the current RCMP, in a city the size of Vancouver, Burnaby and Richmond combined. We need more police on the road, not fewer.

 Community Safety Officers

  • Community safety officers are not sworn police officers. They are not armed and do not have the same level of training required of a sworn officer. Their job is customer service, community outreach and quality of life issues. If issues escalate, it means calling in a sworn member, or two if it is a two-officer patrol car.

 Attracting New Members

  • When it comes to recruiting officers, there’s stiff competition across the region. One of the biggest questions not answered in the police report is about recruitment. A Surrey Police Department will look to have local officers who live and work in Surrey, but that will include attempting to hire officers already working in other police departments across the region, causing a disruption to overall policing in the Lower Mainland.
  • The largest number of officers ever trained by the Justice Institute (JI) was in 2010 when some 300 new members were graduated. Normally the JI’s capacity is less than 150 officers per year.

 IT Network

  • The current sophisticated information technology network is owned by the RCMP and is their intellectual property. The existing system will need to be completely replaced and has not been correctly budgeted for in the police report sent to Victoria.

 Budget

  • The report says the budget increase for a Surrey Police Department is 10.9%,  but there is a complete lack of documentation or back-up to support this increase.

“At the end of the day, we have to ask ourselves if this report and its contents make us safer, and frankly the answer is no,” added Annis. “Policing shouldn’t be political, and good policing should never be about the colour of the uniform. That said, there is nothing in this report to the province that gives me, or any taxpayer in our city, a sense that we will be safer creating a Surrey Police Department.”

Surrey604 Staff
Surrey604 is an online magazine and media outlet based in Surrey, BC. Through writing, video, photography, and social media, we secure an intimate reach to the public. We promote local events and causes.
X
X