Public Safety Minister has no choice but to continue with Surrey municipal police transition

FRIDAY’S Globe and Mail report “RCMP vacancies worsen burn out in B.C.” graphically shows why Public Safety Minister and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth and his ministry have no choice but to continue with the ongoing Surrey municipal policing transition.

The stunning report came just when Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke was caught blatantly misleading (to put it politely) everyone about a vote by the Mayor’s Committee regarding policing in Surrey.

According to a statement issued by the Metro Vancouver Regional District (MVRD) last Thursday:  “At the April 6 Mayor Committee, Board Chair George V. Harvie tabled the following motion, which was unanimously supported and will be considered by the Board on April 28, 2023: “That the MVRD Board provide the City of Surrey with a letter of support requesting a provincial decision forthwith on the City’s request to have the RCMP provide policing services for the City of Surrey.””

But Locke in a hurried statement to the media said that the committee voted on a motion to keep the RCMP in Surrey.

Farnworth told the media in Victoria on Thursday that “the letter that is on its way to me is a letter requesting a decision, not about whether it should be Surrey police service or the RCMP.”

After this, what respect is Farnworth going to have for Locke who has become a veritable laughingstock?

But I digress!

The Globe and Mail report said that “new numbers from the RCMP show that it is missing nearly a fifth of its work force” in this province thanks to unfilled vacancies and members off on extended leave. This naturally impacts investigations and call-response times. There are some 460 RCMP job vacancies across B.C.

The report also noted: “The force said it is ramping up its recruitment of new officers, but mayors and policing experts stated that the staffing crunch is hurting public safety in the province’s rural areas and 65 larger communities that the RCMP is contracted to serve.”

The report stated that a spokesperson for Farnworth said the province was monitoring vacancies and working with the RCMP to ensure people are protected.

So, it is quite clear that Farnworth KNOWS what the REAL situation on the ground is and that the RCMP (or their lackeys like the Surrey Mayor) are in no position to pressure him to go against that reality.

Interestingly, the Globe and Mail also noted that BC Liberal Mike Morris, a former Mountie and solicitor-general, said the hundreds of unfilled positions had created a vicious cycle. He said those who are showing up to work “must endure more overtime and higher caseloads – inevitably leading to more burnout and more officers going on extended leave to recover.”

In any case, the Province is determined to bring in a regional policing model and the Surrey transition to a municipal police force — Surrey Police Service (SPS) – is key to that new model.

There is also the ETHICAL dilemma that Locke and her Surrey Connect party face as the the Surrey Police Union recently revealed that her party councillor Rob Stutt had “ never disclosed that the RCMP employs his son in the Surrey Detachment, nor has he ever declared that his daughter is assigned to the RCMP via secondment from the City of Surrey.” The SPS has submitted a formal request to the Office of the Surrey Ethics Commissioner to investigate Stutt’s alleged breach of the City of Surrey’s rules around conflict of interest.

As The VOICE wrote on March 1: “On November 14, 2022, Stutt voted in favour of a motion to end the transition from the RCMP to the Surrey Police Service. If he had recused himself – as he should have ethically done – that motion would not have passed.”

So, in fact, Surrey Council has NOT voted ETHICALLY on this.

If the new Ethics Commissioner tries to justify the vote in any way, he would be unfit to carry on in that position because the majority of Surrey-ites would NOT accept that ruling. He would only end up hurting his reputation.

He should look at the case of Hamilton, Ontario Councillor Esther Pauls who was recently reprimanded by Hamilton’s integrity commissioner for not recusing herself from past votes because her son is a staff sergeant with the Hamilton Police Service (HPS), whose salary is included in the police budget. Pauls is a member of the police services board, the CBC reported.

What made all of this pretty disgusting is that the integrity commissioner’s report found Pauls had debated “with vigour” and “vociferously” endorsed and voted for the police budget at the board meeting in late 2022.

What has shocked Surrey-ites and others is that both Stutt and Locke NEVER EVER mentioned that Stutt’s son was an RCMP officer in Surrey – not before or during or after the municipal election last year. Was he ashamed that his son was a Mountie – or, with Locke’s party not winning more than four seats, she decided to keep mum about this fact?

Locke’s whole strategy of becoming mayor with the support of the RCMP — a strategy that shamelessly disrupted the term of the last mayor, Doug McCallum, with Safe Surrey Coalition councillors being criminally harassed by pro-RCMP forces as the RCMP in fact encouraged this unlawful behaviour — is now unravelling.

Imagine putting SEVEN Mounties on a simple mischief charge that was cooked up against McCallum with such a dire shortage of cops in the city – only for a judge to exonerate McCallum!

But the shameless Mounties caused enough embarrassment and hurt to McCallum and his party that Locke was able to win the election – though by fewer than 1,000 votes!

Locke should step down as mayor if she has even a modicum of shame – because the whole world is laughing at her and her Mounties.