A new survey has found Surrey’s planned new municipal police department could face significant recruiting challenges.
The survey was conducted in July 2020 by RCMP management, according to the National Police Federation (NPF), and about 95 per cent of the detachments some 800 members filled it out.
The NPF represents about 20,000 Mounties across Canada, and released the survey Friday.
According to the results, just under 14 per cent of Surrey RCMP members are ready to sign up with the new force. Close to 16 per cent said they’d apply at other police departments in the Lower Mainland, and about 11 per cent said they’d apply with police outside the region.
More than 52 per cent of respondents said they planned to stay with the RCMP, while nearly 36 per cent said they hadn’t made their minds up about leaving the force.
NPF president Brian Sauvé said the survey suggests the city’s proposed timeline for a police transition is not realistic.
Other regional police departments could face a staffing crunch if enough Surrey RCMP members don’t apply for the new force, he added.
“On top of the significant strain Surrey’s plan will place on new officer training and recruitment in Metro Vancouver municipalities, it is clear they will need to meet their targets by recruiting hundreds of officers away from neighbouring jurisdictions who are not familiar with policing in Surrey,” said Sauvé.
In a statement, Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum said officers who transfer to the new Surrey Police Service will be able to carry their pensions with them, and that positions will be open at all ranks.
“I understand this survey was conducted with Surrey RCMP only, and if 14 per cent of those (members) are planning to apply to Surrey Police Service, that would provide a good balance and rich opportunities for municipal police and RCMP from other jurisdictions not only in B.C. but across Canada to join an exciting new urban police service,” said McCallum.
“I believe that once a chief is hired, and he or she launches the Service’s recruitment program, that police officers at all ranks and years of service will see exciting opportunities in the fastest growing city in this province.”
But Coun. Jack Hundial, himself a former Mountie, said the report belies the mayor’s pledge to make the new force more local than the RCMP.
“Now you have to recruit nationally,” he said.
“Even the neighbouring elected officials … have raised concerns over this because it will cause that regional instability when you start poaching from other areas.”
Coun. Brenda Locke told Global News she was concerned the survey results could further increase costs at the new department.
“The city’s going to have to look at other incentives that may include signing bonuses, which are not budgeted for,” she said.
“I don’t know what that looks like, but I certainly think they’re going to have a very difficult time getting their targets.”
The new Surrey Police Board held its first meeting earlier this month.
The city is hoping to have the department up and running as early as April 1, 2021, with 805 officers and a total staff of 1,150 people.