Surrey’s top cop is warning of an unwelcome shift in policing and crime trends in Surrey, as the city once again denies his request for more officers.
In a highly unusual move, RCMP Asst. Comm. Dwayne McDonald is criticizing a city budget that allows for no new police officers for a second year in a row.
“The City of Surrey previously denied my request for 12 additional officers for 2019 and it was made clear to me that any additional requests for police resources would not be entertained while the city is petitioning the province for a municipal police service,” McDonald said in a news release. “Unfortunately, this may necessitate the redeployment of personnel from proactive and community based programs, which we know have a positive impact on crime prevention, to our essential service, front-line policing.”
On Monday (Dec. 2), Surrey passed a budget on a five-to-four vote that allows for no new police hires and no new firefighters in 2020.
The budget came under heavy fire during the public process Monday afternoon. The fire union, the business community and residents all lined up to express their displeasure with the budget.
Darlene Bennett, the wife of a Paul Bennett, who was murdered in Clayton in June, 2018, said the budget is misallocating money.
The plan calls for a freeze on hiring police and firefighters for a second year in a row.
“The games you are playing have real consequences,” Bennett told Surrey councillors. “Just talk to my children. Tell them how this haphazard plan is going to make them feel safe walking to school.
“Explain to them how a change in uniform is going to make all the difference in the world, because I can’t.”
About two dozen speakers joined the chorus in asking Surrey to back off of it’s plan to switch policing models.
Surrey fire union president Mark McRae paused for 30 seconds at the beginning of his timed address to council. He did that to demonstrate what it would feel like to have an increased response time of firefighters.
“Seconds matter,” McRae told council. “It’s important to share that, because as we move forward with this budget as it’s currently drafted, the time it takes for (Surrey) fire to respond will be negatively impacted.”
Four city councillors voiced strong opposition to the budget as drafted.
“This budget exist for one reason, and that’s to support (police) transition,” Coun. Steven Pettigrew told his colleagues.
“This budget is a disaster, it’s going to hurt the people of this city, and it’s going to hurt us now,” Pettigrew said. “I don’t want anything to do with it.”
Couns. Brenda Locke, Jack Hundial, Linda Annis and Pettigrew all opposed the budget.
Couns. Douglas Elford, Mandeep Nagra, Allison Patton, Laurie Guerra and Mayor Doug McCallum supported it.
Mayor Doug McCallum addressed the media after the meeting and said he was extremely proud of city staff who put the budget together.
“This is a fiscally responsible budget,” McCallum said. “This is a great budget. I actually think it’s one of the better ones I’ve seen in my nine years as mayor.”
McDonald said the freeze on hiring police will have a cost, and despite downward trends in crime, Surrey is seeing some unwelcome spikes.
“We are seeing some minor increases in crime this year and, in the long term, we cannot expect to see crime go down in a growing city without relative increases to police resources,” McDonald said.
Coun. Steven Pettigrew called the budget a “disaster” that puts public safety at risk. He opposed the budget at the vote.
After it passed, Pettigrew apologized to Surrey.
“I really am sorry for what we have just done in 28 minutes, we have destroyed so many lives,” Pettigrew said.