Province caps how many officers new Surrey Police Service can hire in 2022

The B.C. government is limiting the number of officers the new Surrey municipal police force can hire to prevent drastic staffing drains in other departments. Catherine Urquhart reports.

The new Surrey Police Service is aiming to have at least 50 sets of boots on the ground by the end of November, but a new directive from the province could slow down the force’s longer-term rollout.

The province’s Policing and Security Branch has capped the number of recruits the SPS can onboard in 2022 at about half of what the new department had been aiming for.

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SPS media liaison Ian MacDonald said the initial goal had been to hire about 400 new officers next year, to add to the nearly 150 who have been recruited so far.

“We heard back from police services, and they have revised and given a range that’s more in the 175 to 200 officer range in 2022, and we’re absolutely good with that,” MacDonald said.

In a statement, B.C.’s Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General said a multitude of factors went into the new directive.

“The director’s guidance takes into consideration factors such as the effects of officer attrition from other police agencies in B.C., the (Justice Institute of British Columbia) JIBC Police Academy’s ability to accommodate increased recruit training needs, the Surrey RCMP’s ability to ramp down, as well as ensuring efficiencies during the transition period,” it said.

Competition to recruit officers in British Columbia has been hot.

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The Victoria Police Department recently began offering cash hiring bonuses of $20,000 for experienced officers, paired with a slick recruiting video touting the quality of life in B.C.’s capital city.

The Vancouver Police Department has lost 21 officers and one civilian staff member to the SPS, and its chief has said dozens more could go.

“The immediate impact is that we’re losing experienced police officers who are no longer able to deploy with the Vancouver Police Department and we now need to replace those officers,” Sgt. Steve Addison said.

Addison said the VPD rarely has problems attracting new recruits, but said large losses could be hard to replace quickly because of a training bottleneck at the JIBC’s police academy.

“The challenge becomes when we have to replace officers who have left,” he said. “There’s a limited number of seats available at the Justice Institute where they have to go through training.”

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MacDonald said it was too early to say what effect the new recruiting cap could have on a timeline to get the SPS fully operational, but noted the force could hire more in 2023 and currently feels it has “capacity and capability.”

“Every day that we add new employees, every day we continue to build up the SPS, we are getting closer to that point where the police of jurisdiction reins will be turned over,” he said.

While there is no formal date for the SPS to assume jurisdiction of policing in Surrey, MacDonald said he expected 50 officers would be on the streets by next month, potentially partnering with Surrey RCMP officers to start before handling calls on their own.

“It’s really happening and it’s really close,” he said.

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

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