Surrey RCMP Assistant Commissioner deliberately omits critical information on policing levels

Surrey Police Service Chief Constable Norm Lipinski and Surrey Police Union President Staff-Sgt. Rick Stewart. Photo: SPS

“When there is a regular occurrence of only one to three officers patrolling the entirety of South Surrey and Cloverdale at night, it is clear that the daily threats to public safety in Surrey are not being taken seriously by RCMP leadership”


IN response to Surrey RCMP Officer in Charge (OIC) Brian Edwards who on Monday night told Surrey City Council that “[p]ublic safety and making sure all police officers under my command – both RCMP and SPS [Surrey Police Service] – go home at the end of their shifts are my most important duties,” the Surrey Police Union (SPU) said on Tuesday that it is stepping forward to correct the record.

Edwards’ subsequent claim that Surrey RCMP are “locally accountable” is completely contrary to the circumstances surrounding the current and ongoing safety risks that frontline officers in Surrey are facing daily, the SPU added.

Pointing out that local accountability requires the provision of accurate information to elected officials and Surrey residents, the SPU said that the following is a list of recent statistics confirmed by it that were left out of Edward’s presentation:

* 7 out of 14 shifts (50%) in the past week (November 20 to 26) were below minimum staffing levels as per RCMP’s own standard;
* On November 26, Surrey RCMP was not accepting non-emergency calls due to shortages in the Operations Control Centre;
* On November 26, there were only 18 constables working the entirety of Surrey after 3:30 a.m.;
* On November 23, 12 officers had to be pulled in for overtime, which still was not able to raise staffing levels to meet the RCMP standard.
(See backgrounder for more facts and statistics) ​

​The SPU said it had in the past reached out to Edwards and the National Police Federation to address these alarming shortages, only to have the request refused.

The resulting dangers for Surrey residents and officers alike are being glossed over in the name of politics, according to SPU President Rick Stewart.

“After watching OIC Brian Edwards’ comments last night, I am very concerned by the deliberate omission of the actual policing scenarios taking place on the ground as a result of RCMP staffing shortages,” said Stewart.

“When there is a regular occurrence of only one to three officers patrolling the entirety of South Surrey and Cloverdale at night, it is clear that the daily threats to public safety in Surrey are not being taken seriously by RCMP leadership.”

He said that the staffing shortage situation became so concerning in the Spring of 2022 that the SPU submitted a request for an immediate investigation by the Labour Program of Employment and Social Development Canada under the Canada Labour Code, and subsequently to WorkSafe BC, in support of the health and safety of both RCMP and SPS officers in Surrey.

“The SPU is releasing this information because it is critical that our elected officials and Surrey residents have accuracy about the realities on the streets of our city before any major decisions are made,” said Stewart.


Backgrounder on RCMP Staffing Shortages 

  • In November of 2021, the Surrey Police Service (SPS) assigned the first group of 29 sworn officers to the Surrey RCMP. The total number of assigned officers reached 154 at the end of September 2022 and will reach 190 by the end of November 2022
  • According to internal guidelines, the Surrey RCMP strives to deploy a total of 42 constables per watch. For each watch, the officers are divided between five Districts and three separate shift deployment times. Two watches deploy per calendar day
  • These guidelines do not establish minimum staffing levels for individual districts or shifts. Therefore, even when the Surrey RCMP deploys 42 constables over the course of a 12-hour watch, there have been early mornings in the City of Surrey where one entire District (ranging between 74,000 to 154,000 residents) has been staffed with a single constable from 3:30 a.m. until 6 a.m.
  • Unlike many municipal police agencies, RCMP minimum staffing levels are only a guideline and are not enforced by the collective agreement or letters of understanding with their respective police union. Therefore, it is common for watches to run below these minimums without any accountability or recourse to the police union or the membership
  • A review of available data by SPS found approximately 25% or more of RCMP deployments were not meeting minimum staffing levels earlier this year
  • To demonstrate these shortages, one day in June of 2022, the Surrey RCMP deployed approximately 31 frontline officers during the day across the entire city
  • SPS officers represent between 35-50% of frontline general duty deployments each day across two watches. It has become commonplace for SPS to deploy the majority of officers throughout the various districts;
  • SPS staff have observed RCMP members transferred out of frontline policing positions whenever new SPS officers entered the Surrey RCMP assignment. The transfer of RCMP members out of frontline positions has prevented the Surrey RCMP from increasing frontline staffing numbers and has contributed to their inability to consistently meet minimum staffing numbers
  • The Operational Communications Centre (OCC), which is responsible for 911 service to the public, strives to have 14 staff members during the day and 12 staff members at night. It is a regular occurrence that OCC is staffed with just 3-4 staff members, which means that non-emergency calls are not responded to
  • This non-emergency lack of response policy in times of severe staffing shortages is a significant reason for the falling crime rate that OIC Edwards trumpeted to Surrey City Council in his presentation



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