The voice for almost 20,000 RCMP says its members should not be used as “political pawns” in the dispute between the British Columbia government and the City of Surrey over its policing situation.
Brian Sauvé, the president of the National Police Federation, says in an open letter to Premier David Eby that the government’s lack of funding has led to staff shortages and it’s unfair to blame the Mounties for not filling their vacancies.
The staffing vacancies were a key reason the B.C. government had recommended the City of Surrey continue its transition to an independent police force, despite the newly elected mayor’s promise that the city would go back to the RCMP for its policing.
The provincial government is expected to announce its decision Wednesday on whether Surrey will be allowed to abandon its transition to a municipal police force and revert to RCMP.
Sauvé says in the letter that Eby’s recent attention toward RCMP recruiting is “valid and even appreciated,” and the Mounties have seen no shortage of experienced police officers wanting to join.
He says the province hasn’t properly funded the growth of the RCMP and last year’s $230-million commitment to hire 277 more officers still leaves B.C. short 242 officers from what is the fully authorized strength of 2,602 Mounties.
The letter says B.C. hasn’t increased its authorized police strength since 2012, despite ongoing population increases, creating an environment where fewer officers must serve more people.
“We ask all leaders to please remember that our RCMP Members are not political pawns and should not be used as scapegoats for over a decade of provincial underfunding of the B.C. RCMP or shifted around on a policing chessboard with no say in their positions and postings.
“Our Members serve their communities every day, put their lives on the line, have families and children rooted in those communities, and should be treated as people, not uniforms,” the letter says.
Solicitor General Mike Farnworth has said part of the government’s recommendation for the city to continue its transition to the Surrey Policing Service was a safety issue, as he cited 1,500 staff vacancies across the province.
Sauvé’s letter says RCMP recruitment is recovering from the pandemic slowdown and has had an average of 220 applications a month from B.C. over the past five months.
It says there is also interest from experienced police officers joining the Mounties, with more than 80 new RCMP officers in B.C., with many more in training.