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Surrey Police Service chief’s $21,943 in overtime draws criticism

OT claimed by Norm Lipinski in first eight months of the year is “shameful,” mayoral candidate Brenda Locke says.
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Chief Norm Lipinski of the Surrey Police Service.

Surrey’s incoming municipal police chief Norm Lipinski is drawing fire from critics for over $20,000 in overtime he’s accumulated to date his year.

Surrey Coun. Brenda Locke called the overtime payments to Lipinski, whose base salary is $285,000,  “shameful” and “ridiculous.”

Glacier Media asked the Surrey Police Service how and why Lipinski had accumulated $21,943 in overtime pay in the first eight months of this year.

Service spokesperson Ian MacDonald explained by email that SPS is not paying more for the chief’s extra work.

“The Chief’s overtime is approved as per his contract and it is capped. It is calculated on an hour-for-hour basis and can be taken as pay or time-off.

“The creation of a new police organization from scratch is a lot of work for a large group of people let alone initially just a Chief and three deputies as staff, as it was in the beginning of 2021. A great deal of work is, and was, done by the Chief to stand up Surrey Police Service and his overtime compensation for that work is at straight-time.”

A rough estimate of his pro-rated base salary indicates Lipinski has billed about 160 extra hours, or close to five hours per week to the end of August.

The overtime revelation came from a freedom of information request by Paul Daynes, a member of the Keep the RCMP in Surrey grassroots campaign that aims to halt the planned transition from Surrey RCMP to SPS.

Locke is a mayoral candidate in the 2022 municipal election and pledges to freeze the transition until a local referendum takes place on the matter. The Surrey Police Board, led by Mayor Doug McCallum, has stated council has no such authority without provincial government approval.

Locke’s indignation appears to be supported by at least one policing expert, former West Vancouver police chief Kash Heed, who contacted Glacier Media to express his own shock at the overtime payments.

“It is unheard of in the police community that a chief or any executive officer gets paid overtime. The practice is they keep a book and use that as time off.”

Heed said the nature of the transition is no excuse for Lipinski to go against norms established in municipal forces in B.C.

While not precedent setting, Heed said, the overtime is still wrong.

Surrey is the only major city in Canada without its own municipal police force.

However, the true costs of the transition and operations of the Surrey Police Service are among key concerns for the transition that McCallum and a unanimous council, including Locke, put in place in November 2018. But since getting the ball rolling, people, including four members of Surrey council, have become frustrated with the process.

Surrey initially estimated the transition would cost $45 million but upped that figure to $63.7 million last year. Transition costs include information technology systems, infrastructure, training and other costs associated with legal and communications work.

Initial city budgets foresaw a cut to the Surrey RCMP in order to pay for operational costs for the SPS, however the full RCMP contract will be fulfilled this year, meaning each day the SPS pays its staff members, executive chiefs and 110 officers, taxpayers in Surrey are footing a double bill for policing.

Board finance committee chair Elizabeth Model presented some figures last month.

To July 31, the service had spent $2.5 million on salaries and benefits.

But as of this month the service has already hired 110 officers. Glacier Media has asked the service for its September costs.

The service has stated it will have officers deployed on the streets in a hybrid police model by December.

Based on expenses to date, the service is nowhere close to establishing its own IT system. And there is no indication in the budget specifically for a training centre and forensics lab.

gwood@glaciermedia.ca