Surrey RCMP head says city's ruling party made deliberate move to 'undermine' safety

There has been another flare-up in the war of words over the transition in Surrey from the RCMP to a municipal police department.

Assistant Commissioner Brian Edwards, officer in charge of the Surrey RCMP, took the unusual step of releasing a statement Sunday, calling out the city’s governing civic party for a “deliberate attempt to undermine public safety in Surrey, by eroding public confidence in policing at the current time.”

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The statement was in response to a tweet by the Safe Surrey Coalition, which claimed a recent survey had found six per cent of residents support keeping the RCMP as a police force, and targeting cardboard cutouts of police officers used to deter speeding.

“It’s clear that the city’s anxious for a local, accountable & responsive police force It’s time to move forward,” reads the tweet.

https://twitter.com/safesurrey2018/status/1462206558893330435

“In my view, this could directly impact our efforts to maintain public safety. And as a result, I felt it necessary to respond to that tweet,” Edwards told Global News in an interview.

I’m very reluctant to step into politics. In this case, I felt the mayor and the members of the Safe Surrey Coalition in their chairs as city councillors do have a responsibility to support the Surrey RCMP. Transition is not something that will occur overnight, and the confidence in policing in Surrey needs to be there and the support for police for us to remain effective in this community.”

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Edwards said it remained important for RCMP officers to feel supported in their day-to-day work, calling the tweet “disrespectful.”

He said it was his responsibility as head of the Surrey detachment to stand up for the officers and let them know they have the support of their leadership.

“They are fiercely proud to serve this community and they are absolutely committed and they have been doing an outstanding job in the three years since transitions started.”

Global News requested an interview with Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum, but did not receive a response from the mayor.

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The Safe Surrey Coalition, however, later responded with a statement posted to Twitter, arguing that “hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent to undermine the democratic mandate” of the party to replace the Surrey RCMP.

The statement names the National Police Federation (the RCMP’s union) and the groups Keep the RCMP in Surrey and Surrey Police Vote petition campaign as being behind the efforts to derail the transition.

“For this duration of over three years of attacks and propaganda, Surrey RCMP Assistant Commissioner Brian Edwards has remained silent,” reads the statement.

“Surely the indignation that he has voiced today equally applies to these groups’ organized efforts to destabilize & demoralize our city’s incoming police force.”

Edwards was appointed officer in charge of the Surrey RCMP in December 2019, just under two years ago.

The new Surrey Police Service is aiming to have up to 50 officers on the street, working in concert with the RCMP by the end of November.

It deployed its first 10 officers to Abbotsford to help with flood response last week.

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Last week, the Surrey Police Vote campaign said it had collected signatures from about 13.5 per cent of registered voters in the city who opposed the police transition, and called on the province to hold a referendum on the switch.

McCallum and his Safe Surrey Coalition swept to power with a majority on council in the 2018 municipal election on promises to replace the Surrey RCMP and build a SkyTrain extension in the city instead of a light rail system.

Since then, the issue has become a political lightning rod and been at the heart of several high-profile civic fracases, including a recent city ban on lawn signs that transition opponents say unfairly targeted them.

Police have also opened a mischief investigation stemming from an incident in September in which McCallum alleged pro-RCMP campaigners had run over his foot.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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