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15 New West cops have taken jobs with the Surrey Police Service

Province recommends Surrey continue transition to new municipal police service
Gone to Surrey: The New Westminster Police Department has lost more than a dozen officers to th new Surrey Police Service. photo Julie MacLellan

More than a dozen New Westminster police officers have departed for the Surrey Police Service in the past two years.

Earlier today, the province recommended that the City of Surrey continue its transition from a contracted service with the RCMP to the new Surrey Police Service.

Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke, who campaigned in the 2022 municipal election on retaining the Surrey RCMP, later told the media that Surrey would keep the RCMP, but she would have city staff review the province’s report.

New Westminster Police Department Chief Const. Dave Jansen declined to comment on the situation in the neighbouring community. He did provide statistics requested by the Record.

According to Jansen, the NWPD lost nine police officers to the Surrey Police Service in 2021 (as well as one to private industry and one who left policing). In 2022, the NWPD lost six officers to the Surrey Police Service, four to the RCMP, one to Calgary Police, one to the province’s Commercial Vehicle Unit and one who left policing.

So far this year, he said the New Westminster Police Department has lost one member to the RCMP.

In late 2018, the City of Surrey, under then-mayor Doug McCallum, decided to transition away from the RCMP police model and to establish its own municipal police department. (Some B.C. communities, including New Westminster, Delta and Port Moody have municipal police departments, rather than RCMP.)

In February 2020, the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General approved the transition plan, and Surrey began working on the implementation of the Surrey Police Service. It hired Chief Const. Norm Lipinski as its first chief in 2021.

The transition from a contract service with the RCMP to a municipal police force, however, has become a political battle and was a key issue in the October 2022 civic election.

In November 2022, Surrey’s newly elected mayor and council voted 5-4 in favour of keeping the RCMP and reversing the transition to the new municipal police force.

On April 28, the province recommended that Surrey continue with the transition to a municipal police service. The province has offered financial support to the City of Surrey in the transition to a municipal police force.

According to a press release from the Ministry of Public Safety and Attorney General, the recommendation comes after a systematic report by the director of police services concerning plans put forward by the City of Surrey, RCMP and the Surrey Police Service. The ministry states that the report details how the transition to SPS can be safely undertaken, details concerns about the RCMP’s current retention and recruitment challenges and outlines potential implications on the RCMP police presence in other regions of B.C. if the transition is reversed.

Mike Farnworth, B.C.’s Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, believes a municipal police force is the best way to achieve public safety in B.C., especially given the ongoing RCMP vacancy challenges. The ministry states there are currently about 1,500 RCMP vacancies throughout B.C.

“The people of Surrey are very frustrated by years of uncertainty over this debate, but we must move forward without reducing police presence when we need it the most,” Farnworth said in a news release. “Now is not the time to put public safety at risk in Surrey or in any community in the province.”

The transition to the Surrey Police Service is well advanced, with about 400 officers and support staff hired, said the news release.

According to the province, the ministry commissioned an independent financial analysis of the submissions, which concluded that the Surrey Police Service’s plan to staff 734 officers will cost approximately $30 million more per year than the RCMP. The analysis also found that the severance costs of disbanding the Surrey Police Service and reverting to the RCMP would cost the City of Surrey approximately $72 million.

“This path forward will ensure safer policing for all regions of the province, including the people of Surrey, and provincial support will help keep them from paying significant property tax increases,” Farnworth said.