British Columbia

Now is not the time for Surrey police force transition, most residents say: survey

A survey commissioned by the union representing Mounties shows that Surrey residents want their civic government to rethink plans to transition to a municipal force during the pandemic.

RCMP union commissioned survey, which shows support for referendum on move to municipal force

A new survey commissioned by the union representing Mounties in Canada says residents in Surrey want city council to rethink plans to replace its police force amid the pandemic. (Nic Amaya/CBC)

A survey commissioned by the union representing Mounties shows that Surrey residents want their civic government to rethink plans to transition to a municipal force during the pandemic.

The survey was conducted by Pollara Strategic Insights online and over the phone between April 17 and April 27 with 803 randomly selected adults.

It asked participants, among other questions, how strongly they support or oppose Mayor Doug McCallum's plan to replace the Surrey RCMP detachment with a new municipal force.

The survey showed that 60 per cent oppose the plan and 83 per cent somewhat agreed or strongly agreed that, "with the coronavirus causing a major disruption, now is not the time to replace the Surrey RCMP with a more costly municipal police force."

Brian Sauvé, president of the National Police Federation (NPF), which represents more than 20,000 police officers serving with the RCMP across Canada, says that "experienced emergency responders who know their communities," are needed to help Surrey cope with the COVID-19 crisis.

"Now is not the time for a disruptive change in policing," he said in a release. "We encourage city council to re-think this plan and focus on the health and safety of people and their communities."

The city has put the cost of the transition at $19 million dollars. McCallum, who campaigned and won on the plan to leave the RCMP for a municipal force, has pledged to have Surrey Police Department patrols begin in April 2021.

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum stands near a mock-up of a Surrey city police vehicle during his state of the city address in Surrey, B.C., on Tuesday, May 7, 2019. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The province gave its final approval to the plans in February. But at the same time, a report from the chair of the policing transition committee, former attorney general Wally Oppal, found the timeline to be ambitious.

In the middle of April, the City of Surrey said that it could face up to a $42 million shortfall due to the pandemic by the end of December, but as part of the release, McCallum said the city was in a strong financial position.

The survey commissioned by the police union showed that 90 per cent of respondents either somewhat agreed or strongly agreed that due to the shortfall, mayor and council need "to take a step back and evaluate its spending plans to ensure they are focused on the most urgent priorities."

The survey commissioned by the NPF also showed that a majority of those polled supported a referendum on transitioning to a new force.

The federation says Surrey is served by 850 members of the RCMP.

Pollara says the margin of error for a probability sample of this size in its survey is plus or minus 3.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

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