SURREY (NEWS 1130) – Surrey RCMP Assistant Commissioner Dwayne McDonald is calling out Mayor Doug McCallum after council approved a budget that puts a hiring freeze on the RCMP and firefighters.
The mayor had said the budget had the support of both departments.
“Both of them assured me we could get by this year and continue to make our city safe by the same number of officers we have now,” McCallum said on Monday after the proposed budget was passed.
However, McDonald said on Tuesday the city denied his request for a dozen officers this year, and “made clear to me that any additional requests for police resources would not be entertained while the city is petitioning the province for a municipal police service.”
The assistant commissioner noted the importance of acknowledging the “detrimental effect” not hiring additional police resources for another year would have on how the RCMP operates and the health and wellness of its members.
The cuts in funding as part of the 2020 budget were made to pay for the city’s new police force, with $129-million allocated to the transition over the next four years.
This is the second year in a row that Surrey will not hire a single new police officer.
“As our staffing levels remain stagnant and Surrey’s population increases, demand for our police service continues to grow,” a statement from McDonald reads. “This year, the Surrey RCMP has experienced a 3% increase in calls for service and a 3.6% increase in files. These increases equate to an average of 463 more calls per month and 585 additional files per month. This disparity between resources and calls for service means we will have to review the services we provide. Unfortunately, this may necessitate the redeployment of personnel from proactive and community based programs, which we know have a positive impact on crime prevention, to our essential service, frontline policing.”
He added that while crime has been trending downward in Surrey over the last decade, the Surrey RCMP is seeing slight increases this year.
“…in the long term, we cannot expect to see crime go down in a growing city without relative increases to police resources,” he said.
Surrey Fire Chief Larry Thomas says his request for eight more firefighters has also been rejected, but he’s expecting the situation to improve under a new budget process next year.
“I’m confident that our staff, they’re going to bear the impact of increased workload,” he said.
Anita Huberman with the city’s Board of Trade has asked Mike Farnworth, the province’s Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, to investigate if the current police and fire staffing levels in Surrey are too low.
“What’s at stake is public safety, making sure that Surrey is an opportunity city where we can attract and support businesses,” she said.
Meanwhile, the budget’s approval has not gone over well with some city councillors or many online commenters.
Councillor Steven Pettigrew apologized to the residents of Surrey, saying he had done all he could to prevent it, after the budget passed Monday night.
“In 28 minutes we have destroyed so many lives,” he said. “I’m embarrassed by this budget and I want nothing to do with it.”
“I’m ashamed of this, it doesn’t serve our city well. It will hurt my family and yours,” Pettigrew argued, adding the city is being bled dry by the budget and new police force.
Similarly, Councillor Linda Annis said Surrey needs more police officers and the money should be going to the existing RCMP force, instead of funding a new one.
-With files from Mike Lloyd, Tarnjit Parmar, Kathryn Tindale, Marcella Bernardo and Hana Mae Nassar