British Columbia

'Let's go ahead with a referendum': RCMP union boss calls for vote on Surrey policing

The union that represents 20,000 RCMP officers across the country says if Surrey’s mayor wants to create a municipal police force, there should be a referendum first.

National Police Federation president Brian Sauvé says Surrey residents should decide whether the RCMP stays

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum says officers from Surrey's municipal police force will be patrolling the city as soon as the spring of 2021. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The union that represents 20,000 RCMP officers across the country says if Surrey's mayor wants to create a municipal police force, there should be a referendum first.

National Police Federation president Brian Sauvé says his group recently commissioned a poll that suggests more than 80 percent of Surrey residents support putting the issue to a vote.

"Surrey needs more RCMP officers, not a new police bureaucracy that reports to the mayor," he said.

"Let's go ahead with a referendum."

Sauvé's comments come less than a week after a petition with more than 40,000 signatures in support of keeping the RCMP in Surrey was presented to the B.C. government.

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum declined CBC's request for an interview but has said previously that he campaigned on creating Surrey's own police department.

McCallum, whose Safe Surrey Coalition holds the majority of seats on council, says voters gave him the mandate to carry out the transition in 2018 when they elected him.

Earlier this month, the new officer in charge of the Surrey RCMP said he's confident the public still supports the department, despite council's desire to replace it.

Sauvé says he believes opinions have changed over the last two and a half years.

"The people of Surrey have seen the mayor's plan," he said. "They don't like it."

National Police Federation president Brian Sauvé says Surrey residents should decide in a referendum whether to switch to a municipal police force. (CBC)

Surrey RCMP

McCallum says the cost of replacing the RCMP with Surrey's own police force is about $19 million.

He argues the money would be better spent on providing the RCMP with more resources, such as hiring more officers, and he believes the Surrey residents agree.

"My biggest hope is the mayor, as well as the solicitor general, will see that the residents of Surrey want to have a say in this," he said.

"Whether or not they actually go ahead and do that is completely up to them and they'll have to live with the end result."

Solicitor General Mike Farnworth says it's not up to him to make that decision.

"The decision to make a change is one that belongs to the City of Surrey," Farnworth said.

"They had a vote on their council to give notice that they want to terminate and change their policing model."

CBC Vancouver's Impact Team investigates and reports on stories that impact people in their local community and strives to hold individuals, institutions and organizations to account. If you have a story for us, email impact@cbc.ca.

 

About the Author

Jesse Johnston worked in private radio from 2004 to 2014 in Vancouver, Red Deer and Calgary. He spent the next five years based out of Surrey (his hometown) as CBC's South of the Fraser reporter until he joined the Impact Team in 2019. Jesse is a two-time recipient of the RTDNA Dave Rogers Award for Best Short Radio Feature. He loves radio, running and dogs. He also loves the Detroit Lions, but if you follow him on Twitter, you already knew that. @Jesse_Johnston

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