First Surrey, B.C. police officers begin active duty, starting phased transition from RCMP

Click to play video: 'First Surrey municipal police officers on the job'
First Surrey municipal police officers on the job
The first officers from the new Surrey Police Service are on the job, working side-by-side with the RCMP officers they'll be replacing. Grace Ke reports. – Nov 30, 2021

Members of the new Surrey Police Service (SPS) began active duty this week, taking a major step in the transition away from the Surrey RCMP detachment.

Twenty-nine officers of the new municipal force started work alongside the Mounties on Monday and will continue in pairs for several shifts as they familiarize themselves with local police work.

Surrey RCMP will continue to be in command for several months, overseeing all policing matters, programs and services, the RCMP said Tuesday.

An additional 21 SPS officers will begin operational duty with the Mounties in the next few weeks.

“The first group of SPS officers will be staggered to ensure a seamless integration into RCMP operations,” said Assistant Commissioner Brian Edwards of the Surrey RCMP in a news conference.

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“While most SPS members will be supporting the front-line in uniform, a small group will be working in plain clothes in our general investigation unit.”

Contact information for members of the public in need of police assistance remains the same, said Edwards, as do police station locations. Calls will be answered, however, by both the SPS and RCMP.

Click to play video: 'Surrey Police Force hiring limited by B.C. government'
Surrey Police Force hiring limited by B.C. government

The launch of the SPS has been in the works for the last three years but has been hotly contested by some residents who are concerned about its cost for taxpayers.

The latest budget estimate for the force is $18.5 million above the initial projection of $45 million.

Its creation has also put a staffing squeeze on the neighbouring Vancouver Police Department, which has already lost 21 officers to the new SPS.

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Last week, the B.C. government capped the number of new recruits the SPS can hire in 2022, citing factors including “the effects of officer attrition from other police agencies in B.C.”

In recent days, some have suggested the SPS is “poaching” from other services — an “overstatement” according to SPS Chief Const. Norm Lipinski.

He told reporters Tuesday he’s in touch with all the municipal police chiefs in the area on a regular basis and “we work out a plan.”

“Policing is a competitive recruiting business, if you will, so this is a time when all agencies are looking for recruits,” he said, adding that he’s “cognisant” of the recruitment concerns.

“We don’t want to destabilize, we won’t do that.”

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Surrey police transition opponents make last push in bid to force referendum

The first round of working SPS officers have an average of eight years of experience, Lipinski added, and they plan to serve Surrey for “the duration of their careers.”

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“A policing transition of this magnitude is unprecedented in Canada,” he said.

“Change is not easy. All of us who have joined SPS — myself included — have done so because we want to serve Surrey, because we want to be part of building something new with Surrey citizens.”

Surrey officers will use RCMP vehicles for the time being, said a joint news release from the SPS and Surrey RCMP.

Additional SPS officers will be deployed when a collaborative human resource strategy has been finalized, it added, and Surrey RCMP members will transfer to other RCMP detachments or units over time.

“If they could, they would continue to serve here for many, many years, so I believe there are a range of emotions from our members,” Edwards said of the transition.

The transition will be guided by the Surrey Policing Transition Trilateral Committee, which is made up of senior representatives from the Surrey, B.C. and federal governments.

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