Police transition from Mounties to municipal force continues despite pro-RCMP mayor

Police transition from Mounties to municipal force continues despite pro-RCMP mayor
urrey mayoral candidate Brenda Locke waits for the start of a candidates meeting in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, Sept. 26, 2022.

A battle over police services in one of British Columbia’s largest cities is looming with the election in Surrey of a new mayor promising to bring back the RCMP, who are currently being replaced with a municipal force.

Mayor-elect Brenda Locke, who defeated mayor Doug McCallum in the municipal election, pledged to keep the RCMP in Surrey during her victory speech Saturday night.

But Locke’s pro-Mountie comments drew swift responses Sunday from the provincial government, the Surrey municipal force and the police board who all suggested switching back to the RCMP is not a done deal.

Discussions with Locke and council about policing are welcome, said a Surrey Police Service spokesman, but any decision to change course will require the approval of the B.C. government who approved a municipal police force in the city in 2019.

“We are going to continue to connect with the community,” said Ian MacDonald in an interview. “We’re going to continue responding to those 911 calls and most importantly we’re going to continue building up SPS.”

MacDonald said there are about 350 employees at the municipal force, with more than 150 officers on duty.

“On any given day or night we’ve got 154 officers who are responding to 911 calls,” he said. “They were doing it during the election results and they are responding to those calls (today).”

The Surrey police department is the second largest municipal force in B.C. and is focused on building a modern police organization for the city, MacDonald said.

Locke drew cheers Saturday when she said returning the RCMP was one of her top priorities.

“We need better health-care services,” she said. “We need to stabilize public safety. We need to clean up our city. But first things first: how about first of all we need to keep Surrey RCMP right here in Surrey.”

McCallum made replacing the Surrey Mounties with a civic police force a major goal during his four-year term as mayor, which now ends with his defeat.

Solicitor general Mike Farnworth was not immediately available for comment, but the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General said in a statement the government was not prepared to make any immediate comments about the policing situation.

“Government can not speculate on the potential actions of incoming mayors or municipal councils before they have even taken the oath of office, or the formal steps the city of Surrey might take regarding the Surrey Police Service,” said the ministry statement.

A spokeswoman for Surrey’s police board said the members want to meet as soon as possible with Locke, who now becomes the board’s chair, to update her on the police transition process.

“All we can do is continue to focus on our work and trust the original decision was not made lightly and was certainly not made with the anticipation that it would become an election issue every four years,” said board executive director Melissa Granum.

“We have every confidence in the fact we will keep going ahead,” she said in an interview.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 16, 2022.

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