Critics concerned about ‘duplicate’ police force as first Surrey Police officers prepare to hit the streets

There will be no reduction in Surrey RCMP officers on Nov. 30 when the first 50 SPS officers go into service, with a plan for the later stages of the transition still in the works.

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The complicated process of replacing Surrey RCMP with a municipal police force will begin with 50 Surrey Police Service officers hitting the streets at the end of the month, even as opponents voice concerns about the cost of running a “duplicate” police force.


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Surrey Police Chief Norm Lipinski said the officers will go into service the week of Nov. 30 with their start dates staggered to match the squads they will be joining. The majority will be on the front lines, but several will take on investigative roles, as they temporarily come under Surrey RCMP supervision in the first part of the transition.

“We’ll evaluate as we go (to determine) what the next intake will look like,” said Lipinski.

The Surrey Police Service, along with the RCMP and representatives from the city, the province and Ottawa, are  planning stage for further additions in 2022 and 2023, with a definitive plan expected by the end of December.

“This is uncharted territory, but we’re doing well,” said the new police chief. “We’re being careful. We don’t want to compromise public safety.”


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There will be no reduction to the number of RCMP officers this month when the first Surrey officers begin service. Rather, they will fill the vacancies in the RCMP detachment that are common in any large organization, said Lipinski, adding the officers will be a “bonus to the citizens of Surrey.”

But some opponents of the policing transition are concerned about a duplication of costs.

“We are double paying,” said Surrey Coun. Linda Annis. “We have a police chief and an RCMP officer in charge.”

She pointed to several other additional costs associated with the new force, including insurance for Surrey officers who are not covered by RCMP insurance and training for new SPS recruits at the B.C. Justice Institute. “It’s unsettling that we still don’t know the full cost of this transition.”


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A Surrey Police Services cruiser sports the new departmental logo.
A Surrey Police Services cruiser sports the new departmental logo. Photo by Surrey Police Services

In a statement, the City of Surrey said the city’s budget model reflects “the scaling up of SPS and a correlated scaling down of RCMP for the transitional period,” with $64 million in one-time costs authorized by council. “A portion of this one-time budget is intended to mitigate duplication of costs.”

Surrey RCMP’s officer in charge, Brian Edwards, said plans for the later stages of the transition — and the RCMP withdrawal — remain under development.

Asked how many of his Surrey RCMP officers are expected to join the Surrey force, Edwards said each person will need to make an individual choice based on their own life commitments. “It is the goal of the RCMP to retain them.”

Surrey Police Chief Norm Lipinski in his office in Surrey.
Surrey Police Chief Norm Lipinski in his office in Surrey. Photo by Arlen Redekop /PNG

Lipinski said SPS has hired about 150 officers so far, with just over 20 of them from Surrey RCMP. Once a transition plan is finalized, “SPS will hire toward that plan.” That means hiring both experienced officers — SPS has already hired people from 17 different police forces in Canada — and new recruits, who will need to do their training at the Justice Institute.


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There is limited space at the Institute, and SPS has secured seats for 26 recruits in 2022, with the remaining seats designated for other municipal police departments that need to fill vacancies.

Surrey RCMP currently has about 800 officers.

On Wednesday, the Union of B.C. Municipalities published an provincial update on the policing transition sent in response to a request for information. The update explains that Surrey will need to continue to pay for its policing contract with the RCMP until SPS is fully operational, but after that point, other B.C. municipalities will need to cover the costs of shared RCMP services without Surrey.

The financial impacts are anticipated to be “minimal” as RCMP B.C. administrative needs will decline when Surrey is no longer with the RCMP, according to the update.


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But Richmond Mayor Malcom Brodie said he remains concerned municipalities that have a contract with the RCMP will pay more, but get less.

“If Surrey is not a part of it, (RCMP E-division) will either have to reduce operating costs and cut service, or increase the amount other municipalities pay,” he said. “I suspect it will be a combination of both.”

Brodie said the transition will have other effects on policing in the Lower Mainland, as there is expected to be attrition from other police departments as Surrey ramps up its hiring. It will also be “awkward” having the RCMP’s B.C. headquarters in Surrey when the city no longer uses the RCMP.

“Everyone is entitled to a measure of clarity on how these questions will be answered,” he said.


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Surrey Coun. Brenda Locke said the policing transition has been secretive from the start, leading to a lack of public trust.

“How do you build a police department with no trust?” she asked. “The process has been flawed from Day 1. They’re trying to execute a transition without a plan, without a budget and without a feasibility study.”

Locke said she’s spoken to Surrey residents who have vowed “not to have anything to do with the new force.”

A petition asking the province to hold a referendum on the policing transition is close to getting signatures from 10 per cent voter of Surrey voters before the Nov. 15 deadline. However, B.C.’s initiative law requires 10 per cent of voters to sign up in all 87 provincial ridings and the earliest a referendum could be held under that law is in fall of 2023, when the new police force is likely to have replaced the RCMP.


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An organizer of the petition is relying on the petition’s expression of public opinion to get the province to call a referendum anyway.

“We think they’ll have no option but to do it,” said Ivan Scott, with Keep the RCMP in Surrey.

“The public should be heard, not just the whim of one man,” he said, referring to Mayor Doug McCallum, who has said he is following through on his election pledge to replace the RCMP.

In a statement, the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General said Surrey RCMP will remain the police agency of jurisdiction until SPS is ready to become fully operational.

“The province is aware that there are a number of potential impacts when municipalities exercise their legal right to change their police service provider. We will continue to work with municipalities and police to ensure these potential impacts are understood, considered and mitigated wherever possible,” said the statement.

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