SURREY, B.C. — The municipal police service in Surrey, B.C., says delays deciding the future of policing in the city are weighing heavily on officers.
An open letter from the Surrey Police Service released Wednesday says the ongoing debate over whether the city continues transitioning to using a municipal force or returns to the RCMP means employees are increasingly distracted by worries about their futures.
"As we have often said before, the physical and mental wellness of police officers and support staff is a critical element in their ability to effectively take care of the community," the letter says.
It calls for "a clear and safe path forward for policing in Surrey" after almost three years of uncertainty.
In April, Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth recommended the city proceed with its transition to municipal policing rather than return to the Mounties, citing concerns over the number of RCMP vacancies in the province.
The transition to a municipal police force was already underway when Mayor Brenda Locke was elected last year after promising to return to the RCMP.
Locke has said she hasn't seen anything that would change her mind.
A spokesman for the mayor's office said Locke was unavailable for comment Wednesday because she was on her way to Toronto for a meeting of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.
But he said "nothing has changed" since Locke's last statement about the transition.
The Surrey Police Service says in its letter that it already has 46 per cent of the police officers currently required to police Surrey.
The province's recommendation is not binding, but Farnworth has offered up to $30 million a year over five years to help with a transition to a municipal police force.
The minister said the government won't help with severance pay for staff hired by the Surrey Police Service if the community reverts back to the Mounties.
At an unrelated event Wednesday, Premier David Eby said the government is making sure the back and forth does not affect the delivery of police services in Surrey, adding the issue is expected to be discussed at a June 5 council meeting.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 24, 2023
The Canadian Press