Vacation time for Surrey Mounties who join a proposed new force in British Columbia’s second-largest city, and free criminal-records checks and medical exams for prospective candidates are among the measures being proposed to attract recruits.
The B.C. government has yet to approve the new police force, but the recruiting lures are proposed in a report, released last week, on building the new force for a city about three times the size of Vancouver.
Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum and councillors who ran, and won, with him in last fall’s municipal election have enacted a campaign promise to end the RCMP’s 68-year-old role policing the city and create a new municipal force they say will be more accountable to the community and provide better policing.
They have filed a report on the workings of the proposed new force to the provincial government, and are waiting for a verdict on the new policing arrangement for Surrey.
There are about 800 Mounties working with the current Surrey force, and the challenge made clear in the report will be holding on to some of those officers while finding new officers to create an entirely new force by August, 2021 – a rare occurrence in Canadian policing.
The report says it will be a “significant undertaking” to hire required officers within a short period of time, drawing from existing officers, officers from other police forces and raw recruits.
“[The hiring] will be achieved successfully within the given timeline through the careful consideration and examination of proven recruiting methods as well as the adoption of creative strategies, and state-of-the-art best practices,” says the report.
The goal should be to hire for “resilience,” focusing on candidates who will stay with the force for their entire careers, creating “a sense of ownership for Surrey’s social and crime issues,” and facilitating accountability.
Once applicants are screened, the city will have to make sure they are properly trained, streaming new recruits through a nine-month process at the Justice Institute of British Columbia. Experienced officers would need a week of orientation training, says the report.
The report was prepared by the cities of Surrey and Vancouver and the Vancouver Police Department, and criminologist Curt Griffiths of Simon Fraser University. Vancouver and its police department have committed to help the Surrey initiative.
The report says significant interest by existing Surrey Mounties is likely, and raises the idea of exclusively offering them 40 additional hours of leave to be used in 2022 or after if they apply and are hired.
The idea was apparently once used by Vancouver police and, says the report, might appeal to officers who now have fewer years of service so smaller allotments of leave.
The report recommends a “streamlined and expeditious recruiting process” for experienced applications, which would shorten the timeline to process applications and maximize the number of applicants who could be hired quickly.
The report also proposes having the city cover the cost of criminal-records checks and the medical examination for applicants.
“While this may seem like a minor consideration, these two steps combine for a total cost of approximately $555, which can be a burden for many individuals,” says the report.
There has been no survey of either existing Mounties in Surrey or members of other Lower Mainland departments to assess their interest, but some observers say they expect the new force will be especially appealing to officers from Vancouver.
Many Vancouver officers actually live in such suburban locations as Surrey and Langley because of the high cost of living in the city they police, so might find it compelling to cut their commute by transferring to the new force, they say.
Brian Sauve, a Mountie on leave to work with the National Police Federation, which is working to unionize officers, said it’s a challenging situation to recruit officers because every department in Canada is chasing a limited pool of individuals who want to be police officers.
Still, he said anecdotally that officers from across Canada are watching the developing police situation in Surrey and some, with Lower Mainland roots, and hoping to return, may see the new force as presenting an opportunity to do so.
In a statement, a spokesman for the public safety minister said the Surrey report is being reviewed to make sure it meets the requirements of the Police Act to provide adequate and effective policing and to ensure it meets public-safety expectations.
The statement describes Surrey’s movement toward an independent police department as “mostly unprecedented,” comparable to the 1995 merging of the Matsqui and Abbotsford forces in the Fraser Valley.