If Surrey residents do see a blended police force of RCMP and municipal officers on their streets by the end of the year, as planned, only the former will be fully vaccinated for Covid-19, based on current policies.
That’s because the nascent municipal Surrey Police Service hasn’t taken the extra step to require its frontline officers to be vaccinated against Covid-19 – at least not yet.
The contrast between Mounties and the new municipal officers is rooted in differing direction from the two senior levels of government.
RCMP officers will soon fall in line with a federal government worker vaccine mandate, whereas the provincial government has made no such mandate, thus leaving the matter to individual public sector organizations, including municipal police departments.
The Surrey Police Board is not yet committed, one way or another, to mandating, or not, the vaccine on its membership, including frontline officers.
“The Board expects SPS to take all required steps to be fully compliant with orders from the Public Health Officer (PHO) and regional Health Measures as set by Fraser Health. The Board will continue to evaluate its options to enhance the safety of its employees and of the public,” stated board executive director Melissa Granum, via email, following questions from Glacier Media. Board chair Doug McCallum declined to comment.
The service is in line with all other B.C. municipal police forces, none of which have announced a vaccine mandate for officers.
The Surrey Police Service union’s interim president, Rick Stewart, could not be reached by Glacier Media. The B.C. Police Association did not reply to a request for comment. The association states it represents the over 2,500 front-line police officers in B.C.
The B.C. government announced Tuesday the 30,000-plus B.C. Public Service employees will require vaccines by November 22. However, provincial health officer Bonnie Henry continues to leave the decision to other public sector employers, such as those in teaching, nursing and policing.
Should B.C. force provincially regulated police officers to be vaccinated, the decision would come from Henry, and not Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth, according to ministry spokesperson Travis Paterson, via email.
“The decision to mandate a particular workforce in B.C. comes under the authority of the PHO not unlike those in long term care, assisted living, etc., and is related to the risk and COVID-19 exposures of that specific workforce,” Paterson wrote Friday. “Police officers in B.C. have followed the guidelines and best practices as determined by the Provincial Health Officer in addition to department protocols to help prevent COVID-19 exposure and transmission.”
Henry said Tuesday that vaccine mandate orders from her office require certain conditions, including having “reasonable grounds” to implement the mandate.
However, Henry indicated Minister of Education Jennifer Whiteside has struck a committee to discuss vaccine mandates for school workers by individual school boards.
Presently, unions for teachers, nurses and police officers have not supported mandates. The RCMP union the National Police Federation has stated it will support officers who choose not to get vaccinated.