The Surrey Police Service is already on the B.C. Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner’s radar despite not yet being an active police force.
During the public portion of Tuesday’s Surrey Police Board meeting – which ran just over 18 minutes before the remainder of the meeting moved into a session that was closed to the public – executive director Melissa Granum presented a report concerning how the OPCC functions, under Section 168 of the Police Act, and how members of the public can register complaints.
But some people have already figured out how.
Paul Daynes, campaign manager of Keep the RCMP in Surrey, lodged complaints on April 22 and May 6 against the SPS on grounds it is not using polygraph exams for screening applicants and is not complying with the terms and conditions of the Surrey Police Transition plan that was approved by B.C. Solicitor General and Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth.
“I am very pleased with the response,” Daynes told the Now-Leader of the OPCC’s reaction. “They (SPS) are confusing people by not making it clear that they’re non-operational.
“Failing to adequately screen candidates utilizing polygraphs is compromising public safety,” he charged.
Meantime, the board is also drawing criticism for approving a 2.5 per cent wage increase for Surrey Police Service officers effective Jan. 1, 2022.
Lisa Eason, strategic communications manager for the SPS, said the force, which has yet to replace the Surrey RCMP, is “committed to providing its employees with a salary and benefits package that is competitive with other Canadian municipal police services.
“The Surrey Police Board approved employment terms for Surrey Police Service police officers in alignment with other municipal police departments in Metro Vancouver, that includes a 2.5 per cent wage increase for SPS police officers in 2022,” Eason said.
Surrey resident Linda Ypenburg, in response, takes umbrage with this increase “when you haven’t earned and deserved it. “A lot of Surrey Residents are out of work, scrambling to survive, she said. “All of you have done nothing to ensure our safety in this city.”
Daynes also complained to the OPCC that the Surrey Police Service has “not issued disclaimers, in the vast majority of their public communications since its inception, including but not limited to those in mainstream and social media, they are not clearly indicating that they are not an operational Police Force and as such are therefore unable to respond to requests from the general public for assistance and or to advise the public to if needed to contact their local RCMP Detachment for assistance, this situation is now causing great confusion and some distress particularly to seniors and other vulnerable groups in our community.”
Deputy Police Complaint Commissioner Andrea Spindler responded on May 18 by sending a letter to Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum, who is also the chairman of the Surrey Police Board, informing him that the police board must “promptly do one or more of the following” pursuant to the Police Act, namely, request that the chief constable investigate and report on the matter, initiate a study or investigation into it, dismiss it with reasons, or “take any other course of action the board considers necessary to respond adequately to the complaint.”
Spindler told McCallum the board has 20 business days, after doing any of these, to notify the complainant, the Director of Police Services and the Police Complaint Commissioner concerning the course of action taken, with a detailed summary of results.
“If the complainant is dissatisfied with the board’s actions, explanations, or results from the investigation or the summary of those results, that person may, within 20 business days of receiving the explanation or summary, request the Police Complaint Commissioner to review the matter,” she informed McCallum.
Daynes said he is aware of “at least six other letters of complaint to the OPCC from, how do I put it, people sympathetic to our cause.
“It’s not deliberate strategy, it’s something that is happening in a natural way,” Daynes said. “I think the OPCC is being overwhelmed, myself.”
Meantime, Surrey-Cloverdale NDP MLA Mike Starchuk said in February that a legislative committee meeting was told the OPCC needs $1.48 million to take care of police commissioner complaints.
“They figured it out that Surrey will be, based on the numbers, about 45 per cent of the current workload that they have and so my questions were do we need to spend all that money right now when there’s only four employees, and as far as I know it could take up to four years to migrate to a fully functional municipal police department idea,” Starchuk told the Now-Leader in February. “But, we don’t know. Like, nobody’s told us inside of the planning part.”
“From my perspective, it was an unexpected number because I had never heard of how the province and the way the police complaint commissioner works and how its budget works, so it was news to me.”
The next meeting of the Surrey Police Board is set for June 22.