City of Surrey refusing to add new municipal police recruits to payroll: Union

Click to play video: 'Surrey city council  doubles down in its rejection of Surrey Police Service'
Surrey city council doubles down in its rejection of Surrey Police Service
Ten new recruits have not been put on the payroll. And that has forced the SPS union to write cheques to the officers. Catherine Urquhart has the story. – Jan 11, 2024

The City of Surrey has refused to add 10 new Surrey Police Service (SPS) to the municipal payroll, according to the union representing the fledgling municipal police force.

The recruits — already sworn officers — began training at the Justice Institute British Columbia police academy this week and their first pay cheque is due Friday, according to Surrey Police Union spokesperson Ryan Buhrig.

He said the union learned they had not been added to payroll on Dec. 27 and is paying their wages in the interim.

Click to play video: 'Surrey Police Service chief sets targets for transition'
Surrey Police Service chief sets targets for transition

“This immediately impacted them as there was no mechanism to provide them pay and benefits,” Buhrig said.

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“Obviously Mayor Locke opposes the Surrey police transition, but she really should not be taking her frustration out on these brand new police recruits. Denying them pay and benefits is a step too far.”

After initially supporting a transition from the RCMP to the SPS as a councillor, Mayor Brenda Locke campaigned on a promise to keep the RCMP in Surrey. She cited transparency concerns around the creation of the SPS and the taxpayer burden of a municipal police force.

Click to play video: 'City of Surrey missing from police transition talks'
City of Surrey missing from police transition talks

In July last year, after many months of back-and-forth, Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth ordered the City of Surrey to phase out the RCMP amid concerns that replenishing it could tighten resources in places where Mounties are in short supply.

He said Surrey failed to prove it could keep the RCMP without compromising safety elsewhere, and offered $150 million to support a return to the SPS.

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Since then, the city has launched a nearly $500,000 campaign alerting the Surrey public of the costs of the “NDP police transition,” stating the dismantling of the RCMP in favour of the SPS will cost an additional $446 million over the next decade, resulting in a “massive double-digit tax increase” and less money for “schools, health and transit.”

It has also filed a court petition calling for a judge to overturn the B.C. government’s order forcing it to switch to the SPS.

Click to play video: 'Surrey Police Transition: Surrey’s lawyer discusses the latest development'
Surrey Police Transition: Surrey’s lawyer discusses the latest development

Global News requested comment from the city on Thursday and was referred to its paid adviser, Peter German, a lawyer and former RCMP officer. German said the answer as to why the new recruits aren’t on payroll is “simple.”

“The Surrey Police Service was provided with a budget of $48.7 million for 2023. They have exceeded it by $23 million,” he explained. “We are now up at somewhere in the area of $75 million. They were advised on Dec. 19th that they have exceeded the budget, and that they should not be incurring additional expenses and new hires.

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“It would appear from the reporting that they went ahead and hired. Therein lies the problem. Municipalities have to live within their budgets and the Surrey Police Service, apparently, has not.”

German said the amount that taxpayers are fronting for the SPS is, “quite frankly, unnecessary, because they were already receiving a very good police service.” He further said the payroll marching orders came from the city’s manager, not Locke.

Click to play video: 'Surrey Police Transition: Could the new challenge work?'
Surrey Police Transition: Could the new challenge work?

In an interview, Farnworth said the entire situation is “unbelievable, “beyond the pale,” “obstructionist,” and bordering on “petty beyond belief.” He suggested it’s a violation of labour law and “common sense decency.”

“Here you have men and women who want to dedicate their professional lives to policing, to keeping the City of Surrey safe, and the response from the City of Surrey is, ‘We’re not going to pay you?'” he said.

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“That’s just unbelievable. Policing is a very dangerous job.”

To the mayor, Farnworth said the transition to the SPS is now law in B.C. and it’s time to “get on” with it.

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