British Columbia

Surrey RCMP challenges mayoral candidate's claims amid calls to replace force

As several candidates consider a municipal force, RCMP says misinformation has been spread over last few months.

As several candidates consider a municipal force, RCMP says misinformation has been spread

Surrey RCMP Cpl. Eleanore Sturko says the detachment is accountable to the City of Surrey — not to Ottawa. (Jon Hernandez/CBC)

The Surrey RCMP has spoken out against "misinformation" that has spread following months of criticism of the detachment from mayoral candidates.

Several mayoral candidates have made the future of the Surrey RCMP an election issue. Safe Surrey Coaltion candidate Doug McCallum has gone as far to say he would dismantle the detachment if elected.

"On day one, in our first council meeting, if we get elected, we will withdraw from the RCMP, and we will form our own Surrey police force," he told CBC News.

McCallum's campaign calls the detachment understaffed, and claims that it under-serves the community. He asserts that the organization is governed from Ottawa, not from Surrey.

On Thursday, the Surrey RCMP took the unusual step of responding to the criticism.

Surrey RCMP have been criticized for being understaffed. (Shane MacKichan)

Impartial to the election

Chief among McCallum's claims is that officers in Surrey have failed the community due to a high turnover rate, and that the detachment as a whole takes its orders and direction from Ottawa — not from the community that it serves.

"The officers that come out to Surrey only stay here for a few years, then they get transferred out to other parts. So they make no connection to the community," he said.

Other candidates have incorporated similar rhetoric into their campaigns. Surrey First Candidate Tom Gill said his party would look into a referendum on whether to axe the RCMP in favour of a municipal force, if elected.

The Surrey RCMP said it is impartial to the election and would not comment specifically on any particular campaign.

However, Cpl. Eleanore Sturko says misinformation about the local detachment has been spread over the last several months. For one, she said the RCMP takes direction from the City of Surrey — not from Ottawa.

"We're contracted to the City of Surrey, and our primary accountability is to the City of Surrey," she said.

Chief Supt. Dwayne McDonald was announced as the new officer in charge of the Surrey RCMP at a news conference with Mayor Linda Hepner. (Tristan Le Rudulier/CBC)

Officers committed

Sturko also refuted claims that officers are transferred out of the community after just three years.

She said required engagements tend to be a minimum of at least five years, and officers generally stay longer.

"Our average stationment here for people is seven to eight years," she said. "It's always a choice whether people like to stay. We do have a lot of people in our department who are very engaged in the community, and some of our members stay here their entire career."

Sturko says the Surrey RCMP still hopes to add additional officers. Officer in Charge Dwayne McDonald requested additional staff from the city earlier this year.

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