The commanding officer of the RCMP detachment in British Columbia’s second-largest city is warning of a “detrimental effect” on his unit’s ability to fight crime because the 2020 municipal budget won’t allow adding new officers for the second straight year.
The comments from Assistant Commissioner Dwayne McDonald come as Surrey is seeking to replace the RCMP – the largest Mountie municipal detachment in Canada – with a new municipal force.
“It is important that we acknowledge the detrimental effect [the spending decision] will have on our service delivery model and on the health and wellness of our members and municipal support staff,” Mr. McDonald said in a statement issued Tuesday.
Mayor Doug McCallum ran for election last year promising a new force would be more responsive to Surrey’s needs. In November, 2018, council voted unanimously to cancel the contract with the RCMP and tell the provincial government it wanted to create a new city force. In August, the province appointed former attorney-general Wally Oppal to oversee talks on the transition expected to occur by 2021.
The RCMP in Surrey now have 843 members and 302 civilian support staff. A mid-November municipal report on the budget says future police resources will be determined by the new police force and approved by the new department’s police board.
In light of the assistant commissioner’s concerns, the Surrey Board of Trade is calling on the B.C. government to assess whether the city of about 570,000 people has enough policing to ensure public safety.
Anita Huberman, CEO of the board, said her organization will be making the request to Solicitor-General Mike Farnworth in a letter.
This week, Surrey city council voted 5-4 to pass a 2020 budget that does not allow for hiring new officers for the RCMP detachment in the city southeast of Vancouver.
Mr. McDonald is raising concerns about that budget.
He said the city denied his request for 12 additional officers in 2019 “and it was made clear to me that any additional request for police resources would not be entertained while the city is petitioning the province for a municipal police force."
However, the assistant commissioner said police staffing is stagnant while the population of Surrey increases and with it, the demand for service – a 3-per-cent increase in calls for service this year, and a 3.6-per-cent increase in files.
“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 pro-active and community-based programs, which we know have a positive impact on crime prevention, to our essential service: front-line policing.”
He said crime in Surrey has been trending downward since 2014. “However, we are 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.”
Oliver Lum, director of communications for the office of the mayor, said Mr. McCallum had no comment on the statement of the assistant commissioner.
Ms. Huberman, at the board of trade, said she was not surprised that Mr. McDonald has weighed in on the situation. “He remains the top cop in Surrey. He has to speak up,” she said in an interview.
Ms. Huberman said she did not see any point in seeking a meeting with Mr. McCallum to discuss the issue.
“I don’t see what the point would be. He has made his position clear,” she said. “That’s why I am reaching out to the B.C. government.”
In Victoria, Mr. Farnworth said he had not yet received the letter from the board of trade. However, he said municipal policing is a municipal responsibility so a detachment and a city government have to work out an appropriate level of policing.
He told reporters that the parties in the talks on creating the new Surrey police force are looking at staffing levels, and he expects they will consider safe and appropriate policing for the city.
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