Mayor Doug McCallum says Surrey Police Department officers could be patrolling alongside the Surrey RCMP by next summer despite there being no agreement in place to see this happen.
That’s from RCMP headquarters in Green Timbers.
“There is no current agreement in place that would enable RCMP and Surrey municipal police to work side-by-side during transition or maintaining conduct of on-going investigations,” Corporal Chris Manseau, a spokesman for BC RCMP, confirmed to the Now-Leader on Tuesday.
“The RCMP has not yet been consulted on its ability to do so. While these remain possibilities, neither action has been decided.
“I would like to remind you that the RCMP is a service provider only and not a party to the agreement between the Province of British Columbia and City of Surrey,” Manseau added.
“The RCMP remains committed to providing exceptional service to the citizens of Surrey during deliberations over the proposed police transition for Surrey.”
The city’s 189-page proposed transition plan, revealed in June 2019, states the new force will “go live” on April 1, 2021 at an operating cost of $192.5 million for that year.
The plan also states that it’s “expected that approximately 100 Surrey RCMP investigators will need to remain embedded in Surrey PD to finish investigations that began prior to the transition date.”
McCallum said in a recent recorded interview, “You’re gonna see probably officers out on our street probably in the middle of next year.”
McCallum recently told the Now-Leader, “There’s going to be a period of time where we’re going to have both RCMP officers out there, and our own city police officers.” The mayor did not respond to calls for comment concerning the absence of an agreement that would enable the RCMP and city police officers to work side-by-side.
At Surrey council’s inaugural meeting on Nov. 5th, 2018 it served notice to the provincial and federal governments it is ending its contract with the RCMP – which has policed these parts since May 1, 1951 – to set up its own force.
Wally Oppal, a former B.C. attorney general, is heading the provincial team tasked with overseeing the transition from the Surrey RCMP to a new city force after the NDP government gave the city approval to establish its own police force in August.
“I can tell you this is a major undertaking,” Oppal told the Now-Leader on Wednesday. “We are creating a police force right from the ground up, and that’s a complex piece of work.”
Dr. Rob Gordon, a Simon Fraser University professor of criminology, says McCallum is no longer calling the shots.
“I don’t think it is really down to McCallum now,” he said.
On the face of it, Gordon said, the idea of having newly hired city police officers shadowing or working alongside RCMP officers who’ve been on the ground “for quite a while” makes “a lot of strategic sense.
“But I wonder how do-able that is, there are jurisdictional issues here that he has probably not thought through. But in any event, this is really a decision that should be made by the team that’s been assembled by the AG now.”
“If they’re having plans to have shadowing taking place then alright, let’s hear about it,” Gordon said. “It’s unlikely, in my view, that that would be acceptable to the RCMP.”
Asked if there is a shadowing plan in place, Oppal replied, “No, there isn’t.” Asked if it could be done by mid-2020, he chuckled.
“I’m not going to make any comment on that.”
Oppal said there “might be some overlapping.
“I can’t commit to any time period,” he said. “I can tell you that this is a very complex area. The fundamental issue for us is to make sure the people of Surrey have a policing system that leaves them safe and secure. During the transition period we want to make sure nothing falls between the cracks. So there’ll be ongoing investigations that the RCMP are involved in. We are now discussing ways in which, using the major case management system, how we can make that transition so none of the safety concerns are compromised.”
Meantime, Gordon wonders if the mayor can realize his vision for a city police force before the next civic election in 2022, in which McCallum has said he will seek re-election.
“I said all along that I thought the implementation date was ambitious, and I will continue to say that,” Gordon said.
“I don’t know whether his support is evaporating in Surrey. There seems to be an increasing number of people who are popping their heads up and saying ‘Uh, just a minute.’ I think he’s administering the city with the slimmest of margins, because he was the candidate who came up the middle and I think because of divisions within his party. So the politics of it all on the municipal level are fascinating, but be that as it may, I think the Province made a smart move in getting Wally Oppal on board.”
Gordon noted Oppal has “fine credentials” for this sort of work.
“The only thing he does have is a bit of a conflict because he’s also been appointed to the RCMP management committee, so I’m not sure how he’s handling that when he goes to meetings in Ottawa, and I’m not sure if they’ve started meeting, but on the face of it there’s a problem there,” Gordon said. “You know, Wally’s a smart guy, he’ll figure it out.”
Gordon got that right.
“I’ve resigned from that committee,” Oppal told the Now-Leader on Wednesday. “He hit the nail on the head.
“Because we’re dealing with such things as pensions, and overlapping issues, and so I thought in order to be above any kind of suspicion where there might be a compromise of some kind, I’ve resigned from that.”
The policing transition team’s third meeting was set for Thursday, Nov. 7. The first was in September, Oppal noted. He said the second, on Nov. 1, was a “very productive” meeting.