The epic duel between the Surrey RCMP and rival Surrey Police Service – with both entities waiting with bated breath for Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth to reveal in the new year which will be the city’s police of jurisdiction – saw more thrust, parry and riposte from high levels after the Mounties and SPS submitted separate reports to the provincial government.
Assistant Commissioner Brian Edwards, in charge of the Surrey RCMP, on Dec. 23 slammed the SPS report’s “sweeping and broad generalizations about the RCMP,” saying a significant part of its narrative aims to “discredit the RCMP” and its ability to deliver effective policing in Surrey.
“It is truly unfortunate the transition has gotten to a point where SPS continually resorts to fear mongering and I need to respond,” Edward’s statement reads. “However, it is my obligation to ensure residents of Surrey know that Surrey RCMP has and will continue to provide effective policing in this city.
“SPS is a start-up police agency that is utterly dependent upon the RCMP, and is, at the same time, seeking to advance a narrative that questions whether the RCMP can effectively police Surrey. It is astoundingly arrogant and is a disservice to the policing community,” Edwards charged. “The people of Surrey don’t need this – they should have confidence in whichever policing model is utilized in Surrey. SPS’s continued focus on discrediting the RCMP is unprofessional and unbecoming of a police service aiming to serve the second largest city in B.C.”
Both the SPS and RCMP were required to submit their reports on Dec. 22. The SPS submitted two reports, one of them 155-pages that the SPS said it cannot release publicly at this time because it contains “detailed operational and personnel information.”
The SPS report that was publicly released states that numerous independent investigations document the RCMP’s “unhealthy organizational environment and the absence of a respectful workplace, free of bullying, harassment, and a negative culture.”
Under the heading Modernization, the publicly released SPS report states the RCMP is “slow to implement policy recommendations even when public and officer safety is at risk.”
“SPS is an attractive agency for officers who want to be a part of a new and innovative department that wants to do things better,” it reads. “The RCMP is experiencing significant systemic recruiting challenges that will adversely affect its ability to fully staff its detachments, including Surrey, for the foreseeable future.”
Meantime, Edwards charged the SPS with handpicking recruiting stats from 2020 and 2021. “This was, of course, during a worldwide pandemic. What wasn’t mentioned is that prior to the pandemic, in 2019 RCMP Depot graduated 1,059 Cadets – a record amount. With our pre-posting cadets to their home provinces and new Collective Agreement – we’ll get right back there. Just watch,” Edwards said.
The SPS report cites a Surrey Police Union survey indicating that 95 per cent of its sworn officers are not interested in joining the RCMP. To this, Edwards responded that “multiple SPS Officers have confidentially approached the RCMP indicating their desire to come over if the RCMP remains in Surrey. To now, I’ve held back on this but again, the continued narrative that 94 per cent will not patch over or will seek to end their policing careers is utterly divisive and zero sum. To what end I ask?
“What I’d like to see, and what we should all expect to see, is an approach to managing the transition that puts public and police officer safety at the forefront. I’m yet to be convinced SPS understands their role in this.”
Chief Constable Norm Lipinski, stated in a press release issued Dec. 22 that “We’re not just replacing one police agency with another. We are building an innovative, forward-looking police service that is victim-focused, trauma informed, accountable, transparent in our policies and complaint processes, and compassionate and caring for our employees and those in the community. A provincial decision to continue with this policing transition will provide the certainty required for our modernized, community-based policing model to move forward for Surrey residents.”