Surrey police transition report projects more than 10% rise in costs, no major officer increase
A new municipal police force in Surrey would cost 10.9 per cent more than the current RCMP force, according to the Surrey police transition plan that was finally made available to the public Monday.
The plan was released after building public pressure for accountability into the proposed change.
The provincial government is currently reviewing the plan and needs to give final approval before Surrey can get out of its existing contract with the RCMP.
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Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum promised a municipal police force during last year’s municipal election. The goal is to have the force on the street by April 1, 2021.
“The annual operating budget for the Surrey PD is estimated at $192.5 million for 2021,” the report reads. “Under the existing RCMP-contracted policing model, it is projected that the City of Surrey’s annual policing costs will reach $173.6 million in 2021.
“As a result, the adoption of a municipal policing model represents an increase of 10.9 per cent.”
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth has been advocating for the city to release the plan to the public. The province has not made a final decision, but is expected to propose some changes to the plan in order to ensure a maximization of public safety during and after the transition.
“I’ve said from the beginning that I thought it was important for the report to be made public for the citizens of Surrey,” Farnworth said Monday.
“As already stated, we are in the process of analyzing the details within Surrey’s report and will not be commenting on the individual elements at this time.”
The transition report is also counting on the ongoing unionization drive underway within the RCMP to shrink the cost gap.
The report says RCMP officers are seeking a pay increase to align with police wages throughout the country and if wage parity were achieved, the gap between the cost of the RCMP and a municipal force would be eliminated.
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The report also details around $40 million in one-time funding, which would include $11.8 million to recruit, administer and equip new staff; $7.6 million to transition existing, upgrade and replace IT systems and infrastructure; and one-time transition staffing costs to execute the Surrey PD staffing model over four fiscal years to the tune of nearly $20 million.
No major increase in officers
The plan also proposes staffing numbers. The current RCMP detachment, if fully staffed, is larger than what is being proposed.
But the plan says a number of vacancies in the Surrey RCMP mean the municipal police force would actually have more officers than the RCMP.
“The Surrey RCMP detachment has an authorized strength of 843 RCMP members as of 2019, although it currently carries 51 vacancies. As a result, the Surrey RCMP has a funded strength of 792 officers,” reads the report.
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“The proposed Surrey PD operating model includes a staffing increase of 5 per cent and consists of 1,150 employees: 805 police officers, 325 civilian positions, and 20 Community Safety Personnel.”
Linda Annis, the only Surrey city councillor not elected as part of McCallum’s Safe Surrey Coalition, said the proposed Surrey Police Department would have 38 fewer officers than the current RCMP detachment allows.
“How can having fewer officers make our city safer when what we need are 300 new officers if you do a side-by-side comparison of Vancouver and Surrey,” Annis asked, while lamenting the lack of details in the proposed budget.
“The report to the provincial government reflects no public input, and I think Surrey taxpayers and voters will be perplexed by the reduced number of officers. Frankly, this is a far cry from what we need and a demonstration of decisions made behind closed doors.”
McCallum’s team believes the transition from the RCMP to a municipal force is viable within the proposed timeline.
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“A municipal policing model will provide the residents of Surrey with a police organization that will be highly responsive to Surrey’s specific policing needs and reflects the city’s diversity,” reads the report.
“Locally recruited officers will better represent the community, will be able to foster long-term relationships, and can apply local knowledge to achieve lasting solutions that maximize community safety.
“Of the 19 Canadian population centres with more than 300,000 residents, Surrey is the only community without a local police department. Additionally, Surrey is 28 times larger than the average community policed by the RCMP, making Surrey an outlier among both major Canadian cities and RCMP jurisdictions.”
Surrey RCMP declined to comment on the report, saying in a statement that as a service provider only, it was inappropriate to discuss the feasibility of the transition plan.
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