Surrey RCMP Assistant Commissioner Brian Edwards issued a statement Sunday morning saying that he will not tolerate “deliberate” attempts made by Mayor Doug McCallum’s Safe Surrey Coalition to undermine public safety in Surrey.
“Recently, several communications have been released to the public, which I believe have been a deliberate attempt to undermine public safety in Surrey, by eroding public confidence in policing at the current time,” Edwards said in the statement.
“Whether it is releasing inaccurate statistical data, or mocking current public safety initiatives, I will not allow harmful rhetoric, to jeopardize public safety.”
Edwards did not specifically mention which ‘communications’ he was concerned about, however, Peace Arch News learned it relates to the “Community Consultation Results” published by Surrey Police Service on Nov. 19.
The Community Consultation project included a survey of more than 1,200 Surrey residents. According to the SPS, the survey included an “open-ended” portion, which some respondents used to share their opinion on the Surrey police transition.
Of the people that filled out the open-ended section, six per cent indicated their support for keeping the RCMP as the policing service for the city.
Shortly after SPS released the results, the Surrey Safe Coalition promoted on Twitter that only six per cent of residents support keeping the RCMP.
“A new survey shows only 6% of #SurreyBC residents support keeping the @SurreyRCMP & their cardboard cutouts,” Safe Surrey Coalition tweeted. “In spite of the efforts of a bitter minority, it’s clear that the city’s anxious for a local, accountable & responsive police service.
“It’s time to move forward.”
In spite of the efforts of a bitter minority, it's clear that the city's anxious for a local, accountable & responsive police force
— Safe Surrey Coalition (@safesurrey2018) November 20, 2021
Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum and majority of council are members of the Safe Surrey Coalition. McCallum is also the chairman of the Surrey Police Board.
Edwards said he has addressed his concern to McCallum and the commanding officer of the BC RCMP.
“It is essential, particularly as our Province faces yet another state of emergency that we continue to maintain a stable safety environment in Surrey, and the Lower Mainland Region. As such, we will be taking our concerns to the Provincial Government,” Edwards said.
“I will not tolerate efforts to undermine confidence in policing in this city and disrespect to our members while I am in charge.”
Surrey RCMP Sgt. Elenore Sturko, who said Mounties were informed internally of Edwards’ concerns, noted that he also took issue with Safe Surrey Coalition apparently “mocking” in a tweet the use of cardboard cut-outs to reduce speeding.
Launched in 2019, the Surrey RCMP partnered with the City of Surrey’s Vision Zero project and ICBC to reduce speeding on city roads. The program involves life-sized cut-out cops and police cruisers posted at the side of roads to get motorists to slow down.
“The other part that (Edwards) was very upset about was that it mocks the initiative that’s actually a Vision Zero Surrey initiative that we participate in. It’s a City of Surrey initiative. He sees that as very disrespectful to the members and it’s contemptuous, really,” Sturko said.
Edwards said his Mounties and employees have his “full support.”
“While we continue towards the policing transition, I can assure the public, the Surrey RCMP will maintain its leadership role, of providing stability and safety in Surrey.”
Sunday, Peace Arch News reached out to the mayor and City of Surrey to request an interview with the mayor of Surrey. The city communication’s department requested the reporter contact Safe Surrey Coalition.
The Safe Surrey Coalition released a statement Sunday afternoon.
The SSC statement noted that “hundreds of thousands of dollars” have been spent to “undermine the democratic mandate of the Safe Surrey Coalition and the legitimacy of the Surrey Police Service.”
The release specifically mentions the National Policing Federation, the Keep the RCMP in Surrey group, and the Surrey Police Vote petition campaign.
“For this duration over three years of attacks and propaganda, Surrey R.C.M.P Assistant Commissioner Brian Edwards has remained silent,” the SSC release notes.
“Surely the indignation that he has voiced today equally applies to these groups’ organized efforts to destabilize & demoralize our city’s incoming police force.”
In the statement, SSC indicated that it stands behind its “clear and consistent” message on Twitter.
“It’s time to move forward,” the release notes.
SPS media liaison Ian MacDonald highlighted that in the survey, SPS did not ask respondents if they prefer SPS or rather keep the RCMP. He said the six per cent alluded to the fact that people voiced an opinion about their desire to keep the RCMP.
Asked if Safe Surrey Coalition misrepresented the survey results and took it out of context, MacDonald said the coalition “selectively looked at a single piece of data.”
MacDonald said it’s a “hyper politicized” environment, and “it’s not to the betterment of any police agency that’s trying to safeguard public safety.”
“I think regardless of where you’re coming at this issue politically, if at the end of the day your objective is to try to tear other people down instead of build the community up, then you’re not helping,” MacDonald said.
The SPS is to deploy officers to work alongside Surrey RCMP by the end of the month.
Edwards noted that a formal working agreement has not yet been signed.
“The Surrey RCMP will remain the police of jurisdiction during the initial phases of the transition, and will remain as such until, SPS is able to take command of police operations without compromising public safety. There is still considerable work to be done before this will take place. As has always been the case, the safety of our community is our number one priority,” Edwards said.