Surrey Mounties turn an ice cold shoulder to new municipal force

Amid concerns over seniority, pensions and work roles, only 14% of Surrey Mounties intend to apply to SPS; Nearly half have decided to leave the city while others are undecided

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum. One year after previously scheduled, a new Surrey police board has been named. The police chief, once hired by the board by September, will have seven months to hire over 800 officers, plus administrative staff | Photo: Graeme Wood

A union survey of Surrey RCMP officers is prompting concerns of a shortage of new recruits, not just for the city’s new municipal police force but also other detachments in the region.

The National Police Federation surveyed 95% of its 794 officers at the Surrey RCMP detachment, which faces closure over the coming year(s) with the prior approval of the Surrey Police Service.

The union found 354 officers (47%) intend to stay with the RCMP, whereas only 103 (14%) intend to apply to the SPS. A further 254 (34%) are undecided and 38 will take their CV elsewhere in the Lower Mainland.

“Replacing more than 800 RCMP officers is no easy task and this recent survey should worry not just the people of Surrey, but also residents in other communities,” said Surrey councillor Linda Annis, who is also executive director of Metro Vancouver Crimestoppers. (Surrey RCMP has an authorized strength of 843 officers, however about 50 are not considered to be on duty for various reasons.)

Brian Sauvé, president of the NPF, said in a statement, the results “show recruitment for the SPS would create significant disruption and destabilization for all police departments in Metro Vancouver.”

Sauvé cited prior statements to media from Mayor Doug McCallum that up to 60% of Surrey RCMP officers would transfer to SPS. He said pension portability and seniority are significant concerns for the Mounties.

“These results further confirm an enormous problem that the NPF and other experts have been highlighting for months – Surrey does not have a credible plan to develop and launch a new police service without raiding neighbouring jurisdictions for officers,” added Sauvé. 

Annis noted the Justice Institute of B.C. (JIBC) does not have the capacity to meet the demand of the SPS, should hundreds of police officers disperse out of the province from what is now the country’s largest RCMP detachment by four-fold over that of Burnaby.

The JIBC trains new police officers and last year it graduated 146 recruits. In 2018 it graduated 90 and in 2017 it graduated 107. The new recruits presumably fill the void left by retiring officers across the province. No one from the JIBC was available for comment on Tuesday. 

Any recruitment problem boils down to the net amount of Mounties leaving B.C. because of the Surrey detachment closure and the ability to import and train new officers. Some Surrey Mounties could theoretically replace Mounties from other B.C. detachments applying to SPS. They could also replace municipal officers moving to SPS — assuming seniority and pension were not issues. Sauvé said members have not been briefed on any such information.

McCallum did not respond to a request for comment but told other media this week, via a statement, that SPS will look across the country for new recruits.

But McCallum suggesting to media that Surrey will recruit from outside B.C. runs contrary to the goals cited in the City of Surrey’s Police Transition Report from June 2019.

“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,” states the report.

The report states that because JIBC “is conducted locally, recruit training provided by the JIBC can be tailored specifically to meet all provincial policing standards.”

Hence non-B.C. recruits would also need to come up to speed with B.C. policing standards.

The stated goal of establishing the force by April 2021 appears well off its mark now. The recently-formed Surrey Police Board will close its applications for a police chief on Friday. The report stated a chief should have been hired by September 2019. SPS was supposed to be accepting applications from officers last January, according to the report.

The board meets next on September 2015 amid further concerns and questions over transition costs.