The confluence between the outgoing Surrey RCMP and incoming Surrey Police Service began on Tuesday, Nov. 30 with the first 29 SPS officers now patrolling Surrey’s streets with the Mounties, under Surrey RCMP Assistant Commissioner Brian Edward’s command, and another 21 to hit the beat in coming weeks.
Edwards and SPS Chief Const. Norman Lipinski staged a joint presser on Tuesday at the main detachment building in Newton to discuss how the first 50 SPS officers are being deployed alongside the Mounties they are eventually expected to replace. Lipinski said 41 will come on stream over the next five weeks, and the remaining nine after that.
This came just one day after a couple of shootings in Whalley early Monday morning, and before them a shooting late Saturday afternoon, also in Whalley. All told, three victims were sent to hospital.
It was gang violence on Surrey’s streets that spurred the Safe Surrey Coalition in 2018 to run on a platform of Surrey setting up its own police force, on the premise the city had outgrown the RCMP, which has been patrolling local streets since May 1, 1951.
“The absolute top priority of the transition will be to ensure public safety in Surrey,” Edwards said. “As the officer in charge, my job is to continue to provide the same excellent service to our community that has driven down crime over the past few years.”
Edwards noted it will be a phased process with SPS officers being paired with Surrey RCMP officers over the next few months to help familiarize them with policing in Surrey. The first group’s orientation began on Monday.
Edwards says it’s a “range of emotions” pic.twitter.com/5U3ZHPC6C8
— Lauren Collins (@laurenpcollins1) November 30, 2021
“In terms of what the public can expect moving forward, the first group of SPS officers will be staggered to ensure a seamless integration into RCMP operations,” Edwards said. “The public can expect to see both RCMP and SPS uniformed members working in Surrey. The SPS officers will use RCMP vehicles for the time being.”
A small group will be plainclothes officers, in the general investigation unit, providing support to major crime response. Meantime, Edwards said, all public calls for police service should continue to be directed to the Surrey RCMP and all locations of police stations will remain the same. “As noted, members of the public may be assisted by either a Surrey RCMP officer or SPS officer.”
Edwards said the RCMP is “intensely proud” to serve Surrey, even through the stress brought on by the pandemic and policing transition.
“They’ve worked with fewer resources over this time and with the additional stress of a policing transition. I have full confidence that they will continue to demonstrate the same professionalism as they share their expertise with our SPS counterparts. Finally, I wish to thank the residents of Surrey for their support.”
Lipinski said the SPS to date counts 21 former Vancouver Police officers and “26-ish” former Surrey RCMP officers among its ranks. “Poaching is an overstatement,” he said in reply to a reporter’s question. “Policing is a competitive recruiting business, if you will.”
The SPS officers in this first group to patrol Surrey has on average eight years policing experience, Lipinski said. “They will receive a thorough orientation to Surrey detachment this week and then they will be paired with a Surrey RCMP officer for a few shifts. The SPS officers will then begin to attend calls on their own, the same as RCMP officers.”
“A policing transition of this magnitude is unprecedented in Canada,” Lipinski said, adding “change is not easy.
“This is not about fast, it’s about doing it right,” he said.
“Together with the RCMP we are committed to a stable, phased transition process that above all ensures the safety of Surrey’s citizens.”
Lipinski said a plan is in the works to determine whether more SPS officers begin patrolling Surrey in large groups such as this or month-by-month.
“When that plan is put together we will bring it forward to the community and show where we are going for the future.”