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94% of municipal police in Surrey, B.C., sign vow not to join 'toxic' RCMP: union

SURREY, B.C. — The union representing members of the fledgling Surrey Police Service says its officers and civilian workers have "no intention" of joining the RCMP, should the municipal force be scrapped.
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A Surrey police department logo is seen on an officer's jacket in Surrey, B.C., Monday, Oct. 31, 2022. The union representing members of the fledgling Surrey Police Service says its officers and civilian workers have "no intention" of joining the RCMP, should the municipal force be scrapped. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

SURREY, B.C. — The union representing members of the fledgling Surrey Police Service says its officers and civilian workers have "no intention" of joining the RCMP, should the municipal force be scrapped.

A statement from the Surrey Police Union says 94 per cent of its members have signed a pledge to refuse to apply to, or join, the Mounties, if newly elected Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke makes good on a campaign promise to cancel the city's switch from the national police force to a municipal one.

The union says it issued the statement after a media interview quoted Locke as saying she is working on a plan with the RCMP to ensure police union officers and civilian staff will be "cared for" if the municipal force can be disbanded.

The union says 275 of its 293 front-line officers have signed a statement rejecting any jump to what the pledge card describes as a "toxic" RCMP work environment that includes "a lack of local decision making, instability with regards to staying in Surrey and an absence of accountability."

Union president Rick Stewart says Locke's suspected hiring plan "shows no regard" for the will of the union members.

Transition to the Surrey Police Service has been underway since 2021 after former mayor Doug McCallum won provincial approval to form the municipal force, which he argued will be more responsive to local issues.

The union says, following Locke's latest comments, its members voluntarily signed a pledge that includes the statement "I joined in good faith to contribute to Surrey, yet a highly divisive political climate is directly impacting my personal and professional lives."

"The attraction of working for a Surrey-based municipal police force remains as one of the main factors behind our successful recruitment thus far," Stewart says of members who left jobs in other police detachments to work in the city.

He says Locke's plan doesn't address those concerns. 

“If Mayor Locke truly wants to take a people-centric approach to policing, we remain open to collaboration, transparency and accountability in support of the best interests of Surrey residents," says Stewart.

B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth says there is a lot of work involved in halting the replacement of RCMP. He will need to see a plan for how Surrey council proposes to do so, as well as hear from RCMP about how it would "restart."

"I have not yet received those plans. But in the meantime, what I can say is, is that no one should be having to deal with a toxic workplace."

The RCMP's union issued a statement saying the police transition in Surrey has become a polarizing issue. 

President Brian Sauve of the National Police Federation says Surrey Mounties have worked seamlessly with their municipal police colleagues in a "testament to their professionalism."

The union "eagerly" awaits the city's plan and will respect the process and decision of Surrey voters, he says.

"Policing should not be politicized."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 10, 2022.

The Canadian Press

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