Surrey’s governing municipal political party is under fire over a now-deleted tweet accusing the RCMP of murder.
The post, which was screen-captured by a community reporter, linked to a Global News article detailing a watchdog report that opens the door for potential charges against five RCMP members in the death of a man in Prince George.
While the Independent Investigations Office (IIO) has forwarded a report on the incident to Crown prosecutors for consideration of charges, none of the officers involved have been charged, nor has the matter been heard in court.
The tweet was deleted, and later replaced with a second post linking to the same article, but with new language more accurately summarizing the content of the story. That tweet has now also been deleted.
The Safe Surrey Coalition and Mayor Doug McCallum were elected, in part, on their pledge to replace the Surrey RCMP with a municipal police force.
In recent days, the party has posted a number of news articles critical of the RCMP to its social media channels.
Mayor McCallum declined an on-camera interview, but told Global News he had no knowledge of the tweet prior to it being posted, and that it was sent out by a staffer who wasn’t authorized to do so.
McCallum said the party has tightened up the party’s social media protocols going forward.
McCallum added his desire to move to a municipal police force was not because the RCMP is doing a bad job.
Safe Surrey Coalition councillor Doug Elford declined an on-camera interview, but told Global News, “I personally thought the tweet was inappropriate, and asked that it be retracted.”
In an email to members, assistant commissioner Brian Edwards, officer-in-charge of the Surrey RCMP, said it would be an understatement to say he was “deeply disturbed that the Safe Surrey Coalition would endorse such a communique.”
Edwards said he had spoken to McCallum, and that the mayor said he was unaware of the post and was looking into it.
“While we cannot control what people choose to say or share on social media, I will always respond when members are unfairly criticized, defamed, or judged. This type of commentary is unfair to all RCMP members,” wrote Edwards.
“None of us should ever demand respect just because we are police officers. It doesn’t work like that. But, when we work hard, show compassion, and carry out our duties with fairness, as we do each and every day, we deserve respect.”
Opposition councillors were quick to denounce the post.
Jack Hundial, a former member of the Safe Surrey Coalition and a former RCMP member, said it raises questions for the coming police transition.
Hundial noted that the mayor will soon be the head of a new municipal police board, and asked how officers of the new force could trust him.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate in any shape or form, not just for the mayor, but for those on the Safe Surrey Coalition, not to come out and voice their concern,” said Hundial.
“If you’re going to make a statement like that, you better come out and stand behind it.”
Brenda Locke, another councillor who quit the party, echoed those concerns.
“The post was disgraceful, there’s just no other way to describe it,” Locke told Global News.
“I think it’s extraordinarily important that the mayor makes sure he knows who wrote the post, if it was not him. He must make sure he knows who wrote the post, and that person is … never dealing with the Safe Surrey Coalition.”
Coun. Linda Annis said she was shocked by the post, adding that the RCMP is respected and appreciated for the work it does in the community.
“It’s absolutely incomprehensible that anybody in a political office would make those kinds of slanderous statements,” she said.
“To me, the mayor is in charge of the Safe Surrey Coalition, the buck stops with him.”