Surrey mayoral candidate Gordie Hogg says the City of Surrey needs 300 new police officers immediately, to keep pace with current population and crime figures.
And, he says, Surrey residents need the facts on the untold costs of a transition to a new Surrey Police Service before they can either endorse or reject the plan.
“Surrey residents deserve to know all of the facts about the police transition, and what it would take to complete the process,” Hogg (Surrey First) noted in a media release issued this week.
“They should be the ones deciding who polices their community. At the same time, we need 300 new officers to give police the resources and people they need to keep Surrey safe.”
Contacted by Peace Arch News, incumbent Mayor Doug McCallum (Safe Surrey Coalition) commented “the decision on the number of police officers in any city is determined by the police chief, who is the expert on determining the policing needs of the city.”
He declined to comment on another charge from Hogg, that, in effect, no new police officers have been hired for Surrey since McCallum took office in 2018.
Speaking with PAN, Hogg said that although new officers have been added as part of the McCallum-pushed transition from Surrey RCMP to the municipal Surrey Police Services force, the overall number of police in Surrey has not increased since 2018, due to retirements, transfers and other forms of attrition.
“Meanwhile the costs have been going up dramatically, and we have far fewer police officers (per capita), than Vancouver,” he said.
Jinny Sims (Surrey Forward) said the current “nasty and vicious” polarization on the policing issue is serving no-one’s interests.
“I’m sick to death of the two camps battling each other, and I suspect that most people in Surrey feel the same,” she said. “I want the best safety and security for the citizens of Surrey, at the best value for money.”
But she laid much of the blame for the controversy at the feet of McCallum.
“For the last four years we’ve had a mayor who’s managed to mess up what should have been a smooth transition,” she said.
“If elected mayor, I would suspend the transition so we could get all the data – what the costs will be, how many police would there be in Surrey, how long would it take, and, if we were to stay with the RCMP, how much would it cost to get out of contracts that have already been signed,” she said, adding that the information would be provided to the public, and discussed by council, through an “open and transparent process.”
Sukh Dhaliwal (United Surrey) said he feels the transition is too far along to reverse.
“We have gone too far now – there is no way we can go back,” he said. “We have to continue the transition so that it is done as smoothly as possible, in an honest, open and transparent way.”
He, too, assigned blame for the controversy to the McCallum Safe Surrey Coalition majority on council.
“They have created animosity – they have made this issue a political football,” he said. “They have divided the community on the basis of public safety.
“For top public safety, we have to work together and build consensus.”
PAN is still attempting to reach mayoral candidate Brenda Locke (Surrey Connect) for her position on the issue.
Locke, has been on record as wanting to halt the transition to SPS and return the city to Surrey RCMP policing.
Independent candidate Kuldip Pelia, however, said he fully supports the transition to SPS.
“If I become mayor I will try to complete it as soon as possible,” he said.
“(With the SPS) we will have control. Right now everything is done through a contract with the RCMP. It will be our own city force with our own local officers, and citizens can go directly to the police chief about what they want.”
Pelia said he is not unduly concerned about what are rumoured to be ballooning costs of the transition.
“There is a lot of crying about the expenses of the transition, but these kinds of capital costs are always shared by the other governments, federal and provincial. After that, these costs will be the same as the RCMP.”
But Hogg, said the big problem with the costs of the transition is that they have not been shared with the people of Surrey.
Formerly mayor of White Rock, MLA for Surrey-White Rock and MP for South Surrey-White Rock, Hogg said he used to routinely do ride-alongs with RCMP when he served as a probation officer in Surrey, and witnessed the dangers officers experienced when responding to domestic calls – some 30 per cent of which, currently, involve mental health issues or drug and alcohol use.
“I’ve been out on the streets recently with SPS and Surrey RCMP officers. My general feeling is that most people in Surrey want an efficient, reliable service to ensure their safety.
“Unfortunately they don’t have the costs at this point. There’s been a lot of talking about having a referendum (on the issue) but there’s no point in having a referendum unless the information is there.
“Nothing has been shared with the people, whether it’s the costs of transitioning to the SPS, or what the costs would be of changing back. This information has been kept from the people of Surrey, and they deserve better.”