If Surrey’s plan to set up a municipal police force is approved, the RCMP hopes to retain all of its members and place them elsewhere.
Surrey RCMP officers have been assured that there is a job for them with the Mounties should the city end its RCMP contract to form its own police department.
In an email distributed internally to all Surrey officers, and obtained by Postmedia, former deputy commissioner Brenda Butterworth-Carr acknowledged that talk of potential changes can be stressful, and said the force’s goal is to retain all Surrey detachment members.
“All affected members would still have a position in the RCMP and would receive priority placements,” she wrote in the email, which was sent days after last fall’s municipal election.
Butterworth-Carr retired from the RCMP in early March, and is now an assistant deputy minister and the province’s director of police services.
The B.C. RCMP has confirmed that if the provincial government approves Surrey’s proposed policing transition plan — it was submitted in May — members wishing to stay with the RCMP will be considered priority placements.
Priority placement protocols are used for situations like job classification change, civilianization, change in rank, and movement of positions from one area to another, the B.C. RCMP said in an email, but the execution is not straightforward.
It depends on factors such as vacancies, operational needs and the individual member, but the idea is that when there is a vacant position, qualified priority placements are considered first, and if there are no priorities it is open for anyone to apply. Priority placement does not mean another member is displaced.
“The RCMP’s priority placement protocols are and have been used throughout the organization. The intention is to maximize employment opportunities for impacted members,” the B.C. RCMP said in an email.
Surrey Coun. Jack Hundial, who spent more than 25 years with the RCMP — 13 of them at the Surrey detachment — said that in his experience, priority placement meets the needs of the community and the organization, and allows members to move into positions where they want to be.
“It will be based on operational needs, which it always is,” said Hundial.
Sgt. Brian Sauvé, a Lower Mainland RCMP officer who is currently on leave to help establish the National Police Federation, said priority placement is common within the RCMP.
“If your job is essentially eliminated due to some organizational change, then you are considered a priority placement, and it starts divisionally, in the province of British Columbia, and expands nationally,” said Sauvé.
Sauvé said the RCMP, like most police forces, is facing staffing challenges, so he doesn’t foresee there being a problem placing 800 officers, even in the Lower Mainland alone. He pointed to vacancies in federal and integrated programs, as well as municipal detachments.
“They all have spots open,” he said. “If there’s X number of members of the Surrey RCMP that want to stay with the RCMP, they probably wouldn’t even have to move and there would be another job for them.”
Hundial agreed, and said that in his opinion Surrey RCMP members are sought after “because they are great police officers” and “they have specialized skills in many areas.”
Surrey hopes to have a new municipal department up and running by April 1, 2021, which means hiring more than 450 officers by then, and another 344 in the following months.
The city’s policing transition report noted that hiring will be “a significant undertaking,” but Mayor Doug McCallum, who ran on the promise to set up a Surrey police department, is confident there will be enough applicants, many of whom will be from the Surrey RCMP.
Hundial said the only way to know for sure how many may switch over would be to do “a proper survey” of Surrey RCMP officers, which has not been done to date.