Ongoing uncertainty in Surrey policing weighing heavily on SPS employees

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As the wait for a final decision on the future of Surrey policing continues into its fourth week, Surrey Police Service (SPS) is expressing concern through an open letter over the impact these continuing delays are having on law enforcement personnel and effective policing in Surrey.

The letter mentions that not only it is impacting the safety of the residents but also SPS employees have been “under a cloud of uncertainty” ever since SPS was established in 2020.

In an April 28th news release, the Province of BC recommended the City of Surrey continue its transition to SPS “because it ensures public safety”, while the City and RCMP plans were found to “present significant risk to adequate and effective levels of policing in Surrey and province” due to RCMP recruitment challenges and vacancy issues across BC.

While the Province was definitive in its recommendation for SPS and provided evidence-based rationale in a public report to support this direction, the City of Surrey continues to weigh its options with no identified timeline for a decision.

“On August 6, 2020, SPS was established as a bona fide police service in BC. However, since that time, our organization and our employees have been under a cloud of uncertainty as various individuals and groups began to advocate for a reversal of the transition, resulting in our employees having the future of their jobs questioned both online and in person on a daily basis. Despite this pressure, our employees – now 400 strong – have continued to serve Surrey with professionalism,” said SPS Chief Constable Norm Lipinski.

He added that the continuing delays weigh heavily on SPS employees and their families. “No doubt this is true for staff who serve with the Surrey RCMP as well. As the weeks, months, and years tick by, individuals who work in policing in Surrey are increasingly distracted by worries about their futures. As we have often said before, the physical and mental wellness of police officers and support staff is a critical element in their ability to effectively take care of the community.”

It is unfortunate that Surrey’s policing model continues to be debated, despite the fact that the transition to a municipal police service was requested by the City of Surrey in November 2018, approved by the Province in February 2020, and recommended for completion by the Province in April 2023. Furthermore, it is extremely concerning that changing a municipality’s policing model after one election cycle can even be contemplated by various levels of government.

SPS says it is critical that those in a decision-making position understand completing the transition to SPS has been identified by the Province as the only option that will ensure public safety and provide adequate and effective levels of policing in Surrey.

SPS already has 46% of the police officers currently required to police Surrey. Deployed SPS officers currently comprise over 25% of the Surrey RCMP’s total detachment strength, and 50% of its frontline officers.

Also making a change in policing is a decision for generations of Surrey residents, not for only four years.

Lipinski informed that SPS’s modern policing model is already showing early signs of success since there is increased transparency on policing for Surrey residents including the posting of monthly financials, staffing levels, public board meetings, and collective agreements.

“SPS has done its best to stay out of the politics of this policing transition, however, as the delays continue and the merits of SPS are debated, we have to speak up. Policing is too consequential to the community and to our 400 employees for this debate to not include SPS’s voice,” he said.

After almost three years of uncertainty – it is time for a clear and safe path forward for policing in Surrey.