Union calls for Surrey Police Service to halt recruitment efforts amid escalating gang violence
Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum stands in front of a police car.
VANCOUVER -- The union representing RCMP officers is calling for the Surrey Police Service to temporarily halt recruiting efforts to limit potential impacts on the law enforcement response to escalating gang violence in the Lower Mainland.
The National Police Federation spoke out after a weekend that saw two deadly shootings committed in the region in as many days, including one in Burnaby that injured an innocent bystander.
In a statement, union president Brian Sauvé asked the provincial government to suspend recruitment of active duty officers "to an inactive potential police service." There is currently no set timeline for Surrey's pending municipal force to take over for the city's RCMP detachment.
"Now is not the time to be removing scarce resources from active service in the Lower Mainland," Sauvé said.
The Surrey Police Service is hiring for a number of positions, including constable roles in the Support Services Bureau, Investigations Bureau and Community Policing Bureau, according to the force's website.
It's unclear when those potential hires would begin working for the department.
Asked about the union's comments, Surrey Police Services spokesperson Sharlene Brooks told CTV News that recruiting "will be continuous and incremental both for experienced officers and new recruits."
"We have been and will continue to be in communications with the chiefs (both municipal and RCMP) regarding our recruiting efforts," Brooks said in an email.
The National Police Federation has been openly critical of the city's decision to transition away from its current RCMP detachment. Last year, during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the union commissioned a poll that found 83 per cent of Surrey residents didn't think it was a good time to move to a new force.
On Monday, the union also called on the B.C. government to pour additional funding into anti-gang investigations.
"Police services across the Lower Mainland, in particular the RCMP, have been under-resourced for far too long, contributing to this escalating violence," Sauvé said.
The union president told CTV News there are about 7,400 RCMP staff in B.C., including federal officers, but that he believes that number should be closer to 9,000.
B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth denied there being any issues related to the Surrey policing transition or overall staffing levels in the region.
"Staffing has not been an issue in the Lower Mainland," Farnworth said.
"In terms of the transition, it is taking place and it is superintended by my director of police services to ensure that safe and effective policing continues."
Sunday's shooting at the Vancouver International Airport ended with two fleeing suspects opening fire at police while speeding away from the scene on a public road – just the latest example of the brazenness of the criminals operating in the region.
Police forces have assured the public they are doing everything they can to address the violence, but B.C.'s anti-gang task force, the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit, said they need people with information on gang activity to come forward and co-operate.
"Withholding information and keeping information to yourselves, if you have any as it relates to this gang violence – those times are over, folks," Asst. Commissioner Manny Mann said Monday. "Those of you that have information, whether it's family, friends, other community members, call your police. We need that information to advance our investigations."
With files from CTV News Vancouver's Allison Hurst