Critics, victims slam Surrey's plan to roll back planned RCMP officers
Published Friday, December 7, 2018 6:32PM PST
Last Updated Friday, December 7, 2018 7:05PM PST
It’s “extremely disheartening” to hear that Surrey is cancelling a plan to hire 12 more Mounties, says the widow of an innocent man killed in a targeted hit gone wrong, the same day as another man was killed in the city.
Darlene Bennett told CTV News that she’s very disappointed in that part of the proposed budget by the Safe Surrey Coalition, led by Doug McCallum, as critics question whether the slate is living up to its name and its promises.
“I’m extremely disappointed. There’s been a lot of violent crime going on and the RCMP don’t have the resources to catch these individuals or keep the community safe. Losing 12 police officers is incredibly disheartening,” said Bennett.
Bennett’s husband Paul was gunned down in his driveway in June in what police believe is a case of mistaken identity. His case so far remains unsolved.
Bennett was reacting to news that a planned annual increase of 12 Mounties had been cancelled, which was confirmed by the city’s top cop, Asst. Commissioner Dwayne McDonald, on Thursday.
“Given the budget constraints they are faced with, they have elected not to go that route,” McDonald told reporters.
McCallum has claimed the city is $514 million in debt as a reason to slash planned community centres and ice rinks; in fact city documents show the actual debt load is about half that, at $267 million. And much of that debt is tied to infrastructure or construction projects; the province forbids cities from running an operating deficit.
McCallum has planned to switch away from the RCMP to a municipal force, but that could be years away. Former mayoral candidate Bruce Hayne said McDonald’s request to the previous council was for as many as 200 officers to deal with the population of a rapidly expanding city.
Some of those would be going to the Gang Enforcement Team or to school liaison officers, he said.
“Twelve a year is just treading water,” Hayne told CTV News. “To not put resources into our existing police force now is asking for trouble.”
In October, a Safe Surrey Coalition press release quoted Doug McCallum as saying he would invest in anti-gang programs.
“Surrey also needs to invest in programs that effectively protect our youth from gangs and the gang culture. The Safe Surrey Coalition fully intends to live up to its name,” McCallum is quoted as saying.
Hayne said that’s not happening now.
“Not so far, it doesn’t seem to me. We’ll see as they set out their priorities. It seems there are going to be a lot of cutbacks in a lot of different areas,” he said.
McCallum declined an interview with CTV News. City staff said that McCallum had addressed the loss of 12 officers in a media availability on Tuesday. A video recording of the event shows that he did not talk about losing 12 officers, and instead focused on the transition away from the RCMP.
McCallum’s staff said the city had added 140 new officers since 2015, bringing the total to 835 officers. That’s about 147 officers per 100,000 people.
By comparison, Vancouver has 1,485 officers for its population of 656,000 people; that’s about 226 officers per 100,000 people.