Peter German: Costs of new police force will handcuff Surrey taxpayers for a generation

Peter German: Costs of new police force will handcuff Surrey taxpayers for a generation

‘During a transition, organized crime may well have a field day’

By Peter German

Surrey council’s avowed intention to create a municipal police force would end over 70 years of RCMP service to the community and terminate a 20-year contract signed in 2012.

Since 1935, the federal government has allowed its federal force to police municipalities, with over 150 contracts currently in place.

The reasons are obvious – a quality, cost effective police service. The RCMP did not ask to become Surrey’s municipal force. Residents overwhelmingly voted to replace the Surrey Municipal Police in a 1950 plebiscite.

So why does Surrey now wish to end its contract with the RCMP? The reasons given float between a safer city, greater accountability, and that Surrey is now a big city.

It is extremely unusual for a municipality to unilaterally end its contract with the RCMP, other than when communities amalgamate.

Once gone, never to return is the federal mantra, as it underwrites significant contract policing costs. Below are the real issues.

THE QUALITY OF POLICING WILL IMPROVE

Wrong! The quality of police officers on the street in the Lower Mainland is virtually the same whether they are municipal or RCMP. This is the result of common standards. At the end of the day, it boils down to having sufficient street resources and specialized units to deliver the level of policing required by a community. This is not the function of one force or another.

SURREY COUNCIL WILL GOVERN THE NEW FORCE

Wrong! Municipalities do not appoint police boards – the province does. The municipality has two seats on a police board. RCMP detachments typically report to a council appointed safety committee. Surrey recently changed this reporting structure, with the RCMP commander reporting only to the mayor.

A MUNICIPAL FORCE WILL BE COST-NEUTRAL

Wrong! Make no mistake, a municipal force will cost more than the RCMP. Nobody knows how much more, for one simple reason. The RCMP has not been engaged in the discussion.

Consider the following.

1. In 2018, the per capita cost of policing in Surrey was $284 compared to $458 in Vancouver – a 60 per difference.

2. Surrey detachment has 843 officers. Any force policing Surrey needs more resources. To suggest that the new force can perform its duties with the same number, or less officers is poppycock.

3. The RCMP patrol model is one person per car. Many municipal forces are contractually required to employ a percentage of two person cars.

4. RCMP members maintain most of the investigations they are assigned during a shift, rather than referring them to detective units.

5. The salary differential between the RCMP and municipal police is between 15 and 20 per cent.

6. A new force will offer a salary commensurate with the highest municipal police salary.

7. Ten per cent of Surrey’s policing costs are covered by the federal government.

8. Transition costs include tens of millions of dollars for clothing, vehicles, and infrastructure.

9. Surrey will be required to deal with all lawsuits, such as police car accidents.

10. The cost of recruiting 800 plus employees and training them is huge.

It is reasonable to project that Surrey will require a force of at least 1,200 police officers to cover off existing needs, and the new patrol model. Combine that with a 15 to 20 per cent increase in salaries, the loss of a 10 per cent subsidy, a huge capital investment, and transition costs, and the increased cost to Surrey taxpayers will be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

RECRUITING A NEW FORCE WILL NOT BE A PROBLEM

Wrong! Where do you find 800, or 1,200 police officers? It is estimated that up to 150 municipal police officers from other Lower Mainland forces may bridge over to be closer to home or for promotions. RCMP pension portability remains an issue, despite Surrey bravely suggesting it is not. Nobody has even surveyed how many RCMP members are interested in joining, but the RCMP attrition rate is quite low. Where then will the bulk of the new force be recruited? Overseas? Other provinces? Will hiring requirements be reduced? And how will this provide a better level of policing?

TRAINING A NEW FORCE WILL NOT BE A PROBLEM

Wrong! The Police Academy at the Justice Institute of B.C. is woefully under resourced, with an aging and outdated infrastructure that struggles to keep up with the current attrition rate of municipal forces. It has no present ability to expand and provide the numbers of recruits required for Surrey or to backfill other departments. Despite a brave assertion that there is a plan, the need to train hundreds of police officers to an acceptable standard will be a huge cost to the Province and municipalities.

THE NEW FORCE WILL MAGICALLY REPLACE RCMP

Wrong! Any transition would rely heavily on a continued RCMP presence, meaning two police chiefs, multiple communication systems, different cultures, policies, and command structures. A one-year timeframe is pie in the sky. Recruiting, training, and new infrastructure will take much longer.

SURREY WILL BE SAFER

Wrong! Naysayers skate around the fact that Surrey’s violent crime severity index in 2018 was at a 10-year low. The local detachment has done everything asked of it by the City to deal with the illegal drug market, domestic abuse complaints, gang violence and routine calls for service. During a transition, organized crime may well have a field day. Transferring institutional knowledge, intelligence and sources is not an easy task for police.

MUNICIPAL FORCE CREATES BETTER SENSE OF IDENTITY

Wrong! The RCMP has responded to millions of calls for service over the past 70 years. Hundreds of RCMP officers make their homes in Surrey. They are volunteers – hockey, baseball, soccer, and football coaches. Many have been injured on the job and five made the ultimate sacrifice. It is our national police force, with which all Canadians identify.

The current, integrated nature of policing in the Lower Mainland has withstood the test of time, commissions of inquiry, and challenging cases. The citizens of Surrey should do what they want, but with their eyes wide open. Trading the yellow stripe of Canada’s national police for the blue stripe of a municipal force must not be a knee-jerk decision taken with blinders on. Taxpayers will endure the consequences for a generation.

Peter German, a lawyer and consultant, was the RCMP’s Lower Mainland commander (2007-11) and deputy commissioner for western and northern Canada (2011-12). He is a former member of the Transit Police Board. His graduate work on the RCMP contracts in 1990 was the first academic study of the area.

PoliceRCMP

Just Posted

Elgin Park Secondary students rally for climate change outside of their South Surrey in 2019. (Nick Greenizan photo)
City of Surrey set to host online climate-action panel

June 23 Zoom event to include speakers, question-and-answer period

(Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Surrey council moves to reduce parking along rapid transit corridors

This also targets rental housing developments in Rapid Transit Areas

West Coast Duty Free president Gary Holowaychuk stands next to empty shelves inside his store on Tuesday (June 15). (Aaron Hinks photo)
Revenue down 97% at South Surrey duty free as owner waits for U.S. border to reopen

Products approaching best before dates had to be donated, others destroyed

TEASER PHOTO ONLY
Surrey singer soars into Searchlight song contest’s top 10 with ‘It Doesn’t Matter’

Argel Monte de Ramos is among ‘popular vote’ finalists, with winner to be announced June 22

A handful of White Rock Divers qualified for Junior Development National Diving Championships after strong showings at virtual meets earlier this spring. (Contributed photo)
White Rock Divers qualify for junior-development nationals

Six divers make cut for national event after strong performances at virtual meets

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

For more than a year, Rene Doyharcabal and a small group of neighbours in Langley’s Brookswood neighbourhood have been going out every evening to show support for first responders by honking horns and banging pots and drums. Now, a neighbour has filed a noise complaint. (Langley Advance Times file)
Noise complaint filed against nightly show of support for health care workers in B.C. city

Langley Township contacted group to advise of complaint, but no immediate action is expected

Raeya Evie Duncan was the 100th baby born at Chilliwack General Hospital for the month of May. She is seen here with her parents Alysha Williams and Andrew Duncan on June 12, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Baby boom in Chilliwack as record number of infants born at CGH in May

‘COVID babies are coming out,’ says dad of 100th baby born at Chilliwack General Hospital last month

A nurse prepares a shot of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Yukon Convention Centre in Whitehorse on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mike Thomas
Vancouver couple pleads guilty to breaking Yukon COVID rules, travelling for vaccine

Chief Judge Michael Cozens agreed with a joint sentencing submission,

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

An inmate in solitary confinement given lunch on Tuesday, May 10, 2016. THE CANADIAN/Lars Hagberg
22-hour cap on solitary confinement for youth in custody still too long: B.C. lawyer

Jennifer Metcalfe was horrified to hear a youth had spent a total of 78 straight days in isolation

The Abbotsford International Airshow is back for 2021 with the ‘SkyDrive’ concept.
Abbotsford International Airshow returns for 2021 with ‘SkyDrive’

New format features a drive-in movie type experience, show set for Aug. 6 to 8

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens as Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents the province’s latest budget, April 20, 2021. The budget projects $19 billion in deficits over three years. (Hansard TV)
B.C. government budget balloons, beyond COVID-19 response

Provincial payroll up 104,000 positions, $10 billion since 2017

Most Read