Surrey, B.C. needs 161 new Mounties if police transition scrapped, cost still unclear: report

Click to play video: 'First look at draft of official plan to keep RCMP in Surrey'
First look at draft of official plan to keep RCMP in Surrey
Global News reporter Jordan Armstrong has the first look at a plan going to Surrey city council to keep the RCMP in Surrey – Nov 25, 2022

The City of Surrey, B.C., has unveiled a report aimed at reversing the community’s transition from the RCMP to a municipal police force.

The report, which does not include a cost estimate for scrapping the transition to the Surrey Police Service as the police of jurisdiction, would see Surrey city council vote on a final plan on Dec. 12.

Surrey city council voted 5-4 earlier this month to try and halt the transition, fulfilling a key campaign promise of new Mayor Brenda Locke. Any final decision will still need to be green-lit by the province.

New Mounties needed, no cost estimate for plan

It notes that the RCMP remain Surrey’s police of jurisdiction, with the police transition still in its first phase and SPS officers currently working under RCMP command.

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According to the report, Surrey’s policing resources currently include 168 sworn SPS officers and 573 RCMP members, for a total of 741 active police. Surrey is currently funded for a strength of 734 officers.

The report states that to “revitalize” the Surrey RCMP, the city would need to recruit another 161 Mounties “by the end of 2023, if not sooner,” which it says would be accomplished “through multiple staffing processes and redundancies.”

Click to play video: 'Surrey Police Service disbandment ‘would most likely mark the end of my policing career’'
Surrey Police Service disbandment ‘would most likely mark the end of my policing career’

The report lays out five targets to fill that group, including SPS officers that are currently and not yet deployed with the Surrey RCMP, SPS recruits, RCMP cadets and other experienced police officers.

The report says recruiting those experienced officers through the RCMP’s Experienced Police Officer Program, which expedites the incorporation of non-RCMP officers into the force, would be “vital.” It says the RCMP would also honour agreements with the SPS to take on SPS recruits trained at the Justice Institute of BC following training equivalencies.

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Targeting existing SPS officers, however, may prove to be a challenge. According to the Surrey Police Union, 94 per cent of members signed a pledge saying they would not apply to join the RCMP.

The figures discussed in the report do not include nearly 200 additional civilian staff the Surrey Police Board says are on the payroll.

The report states that key work on the second phase of the police transition, which would culminate in the SPS taking over jurisdiction, has yet to be completed, including legal agreements, a human resources plan and IT and asset and equipment transfer.

Click to play video: 'Surrey’s police chief vows to press on, despite a vote by city council to freeze spending'
Surrey’s police chief vows to press on, despite a vote by city council to freeze spending

According to the report, that work could take between six and nine months, with the current memorandum of understanding with senior levels of government set to expire before then.

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As a result, should the transition to the SPS continue, Phase I would need to be extended, according to the report.

“The budget and practical implications of a holding pattern on deployment and demobilization while these legal agreements are prepared and signed off are significant and will require the City to continue to fund through most of 2023 a complement of non-deployed SPS police officers far in excess of the City’s ability to pay,” it states.

What remains unclear from the report is what scrapping the transition will cost. The city currently allocates $202.4 million for both the RCMP and the SPS.

“The City is currently preparing the operating and capital budgets for 2023. Proposed budgets will be presented to Council as part of the budget process, likely in early in 2023. Staff will also be detailing best estimates for other scenarios,” the report states.

The SPS and the Surrey Police Board have estimated that “unrecoverable sunk costs” related to the transition are expected to reach $107 million by the end of December. Terminating the transition by January next year will result in a project investment loss of another $81.5 million.

The report says the city will be able to clarify budget estimates after Public Safety Minister and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth either signs off on reversing the transition, or directs the city to stick with the SPS.

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That decision would be expected by January, it states.

More to come…

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