December 7, 2018 12:43 pm

Surrey Mountie slams mayor for move to municipal police force

A Surrey RCMP officer spoke out about the mayor's recent plan to transition law enforcement to a municipal police force.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
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Surrey RCMP Const. Marcus Pickett says he’s frustrated with Mayor Doug McCallum over his moves to replace the RCMP with a municipal police force, something McCallum promised in the civic election campaign earlier in the fall.

Pickett is a Surrey resident and says moving from the RCMP to a municipal force isn’t going to change the violence taking place in the city.

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“Here in Surrey, we have to ask ourselves: is public safety really a question of what patch the police wear on their shoulders, or do we need to broaden the dialogue?” he said.

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Pickett argues that RCMP officers are no less committed to their communities than municipal officers, even if they don’t spend their entire careers in one place.

“That couldn’t be further from the truth, and I felt this needed to be addressed because in their election platform, the Safe Surrey Coalition, they suggested municipal police officers will have a higher degree of commitment to their community, and this just isn’t the case,” Pickett told The Lynda Steele Show on CKNW.

McCallum and his council argue that a municipal force will be more accountable to the community because it will be overseen by a police board that includes residents.

READ MORE: Surrey appoints general manager to oversee local police force transition

Meanwhile, Surrey RCMP Officer in Charge Dwayne McDonald says that with efforts to move to a municipal police force underway at city hall, the RCMP will take every step to ensure neither public safety nor ongoing investigations are compromised.

“At this stage of the game, we’re really in early days. I don’t know what any transitional force will ultimately look like so I can’t give you specifics on that,” said McDonald.

“All I can give you is the commitment we’ve made to residents that we will continue to keep the city safe and we will continue to safeguard the information, the files and investigations that we have.”

McCallum said earlier this week that the transition from the RCMP to a municipal force is running smoothly.

READ MORE: Former crime chief named head of Surrey police transition team

“It’s probably going a little quicker than I even expected,” said McCallum.

The mayor estimates that the changeover should be completed within two years.

On the issue of the draft budget not including the hiring of any new RCMP officers, McDonald is choosing his words carefully.

“We’re in the process of assessing what we do on an annual basis in an assessment of service delivery and what we would like to do — in terms of providing our regular response, in terms of emergency response and our proactive programs, initiatives, all of those things — so we’re going to have a look at that and see what the impact will be,” he said.

In a memo to staff earlier this week that was obtained by Global News, McDonald said he was very disappointed by the draft budget.

READ MORE: Surrey’s top cop unhappy as new council puts hiring of new officers on hold

McDonald has said that in order to enhance public safety and deliver the necessary programs, he needs a substantial number of more officers in future, though he wouldn’t say exactly how many.

“I’ll save that in fairness to council because we haven’t had a meeting to discuss resources,” he said.

The previous council had promised that 12 more officers would be hired in 2019.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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