Surrey RCMP’s top cop Dwayne McDonald says Surrey’s budget approved Monday night will have a “detrimental effect” on policing “and on the health and wellness of our members and municipal support staff.”
This appears to fly in the face of what Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum told reporters, following Monday’s council meeting, that “both our police chief and our fire chief have indicated that with this level, they can maintain the safety of our community.”
Assistant Commissioner McDonald noted in a press release Tuesday that the city’s 2020 budget doesn’t allow for additional police for the second year in a row and as such, he warned, the Surrey RCMP will have to review its policing services.
“The City of Surrey previously denied my request for 12 additional officers for 2019 and it was made clear to me that any additional requests for police resources would not be entertained while the city is petitioning the province for a municipal police force,” McDonald said. “As our staffing levels remain stagnant and Surrey’s population increases, demand for our police service continues to grow.”
McCallum did not return requests for comment concerning the compatibility of his comment to reporters with McDonald’s statements. Nor did McDonald.
Surrey RCMP Constable Richard Wright, a spokesman for the detachment, said Wednesday that McDonald would not be commenting further on the matter and the Officer in Charge’s statement “stands by itself.”
McDonald, who has typically been reserved in his public response to the city’s plan to replace the Surrey RCMP with a city police force, noted in his statement Tuesday that the Surrey RCMP has experienced a three per cent increase in calls for service in 2019, and a 3.6 per cent increase in files.
The impact of these increases, he says, means the Mounties are dealing with an average of 463 more calls per months and 585 more files each month.
“This disparity between resources and calls for service means we will have to review the services we provide. Unfortunately, this may necessitate the redeployment of personnel from proactive and community based programs, which we know have a positive impact on crime prevention, to our essential service, frontline policing.”
McDonald said in his statement that Surrey is seeing “some minor increases in crime this year, and in the long term, we cannot expect to see crime go down in a growing city without relative increases to police resources.”
At Surrey council’s inaugural meeting on Nov. 5, 2018 city council 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.
“The fundamental issue for us is to make sure the people of Surrey have a policing system that leaves them safe and secure,” Oppal told the Now-Leader in November.
“During the transition period we want to make sure nothing falls between the cracks.”
McCallum told reporters on Monday night that “very hard” work had been done with the minister “over the last five or six days” and the “general consensus over there is that we need to speed up the process. They’ve given us the green light to have our police, the committee’s work will be finished on Dec. 11.
“I understand the committee is working very well on both sides and generally, they probably will all agree and sign off on the report that they’re going to be, with agreement from all sides,” McCallum said. “That report should be done and handed to the minister around Dec. 11.”
Oppal had not replied to a request for comment by press time.
City Councillor Mandeep Nagra, who with the rest of the Safe Surrey Coalition approved the budget in a 5-4 vote, said “it was a very tough decision that we made last night, but it has to be done.
“This should have been done 10 years ago,” he told the Now- Leader. “We should have had our own police when Surrey was growing and the previous councils knew the city was growing and they need to create their own police force. It would have been much, much easier but everybody I guess has just ignored the fact that the city is growing and they need their own police force and now, this is why in 2019, this council had to make this tough decision.”
Once the new police force is formed, he said, “I think things are going to be in much, much better shape than they are today.”
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.
Asked for his response to McDonald’s statement that the budget is detrimental not only to policing in this city but also the health of Surrey’s Mounties and city support staff, Nagra replied, “No, I think once we have our own police board and our own chief, and we have our own police officers patrolling, I don’t see that problem.”
But what about in the interim?
After a lengthy pause following that question, Nagra had this to say.
“This is probably the first time this is happening not just in Surrey but probably any city in Canada, a city that’s this big switching from one police force to another police force. There are a lot of uncertainties but I’m sure the new police board and the transition team that our premier has appointed, they will do their best to take care of all these things.”
As for the Surrey Fire Service, Chief Larry Thomas told the Now-Leader on Wednesday that the department wanted to hire eight more firefighters for 2020 but “just like all other departments in the city, there were no additional resources approved.
“We did make our request, we did agree to delay it a year like everybody else in the city did, so council’s aware that we do need more resources as the population grows and workload will increase,” he said. “This is not a rejection by council; it wasn’t a ‘no’ to our request, it was just a delay. I feel pretty comfortable it should get addressed in the next budget cycle.”
“For this year, it’s just the way the budget went,” Thomas said.
“We didn’t get additional resources but I believe our staff are really engaged. I know they were hoping to get more resources this year but they will continue to do a good job.”
Thomas said that “as far as impacts go, the biggest impact will be on the staff. They’re going to get more workload and as workload increases with population growth, they’re going to feel the brunt of that with increased workload until we get additional resources approved.”
Thomas said there “are known pressures, we’re willing to delay our request, but we can’t delay it for long. It’s not sustainable.”
– With files from Amy Reid