Seventy-five Surrey Mounties aren’t hitting the streets, due to sick leave, maternity leave and other absences.
It effectively reduces the “roadable” force from 673 officers to 598, leaving only 36 uniformed general duty officers per shift throughout the entire city.
The optimum number for a city this size should be 50, police sources say.
The revelation comes after Coun. Barinder Rasode, who had been requesting the figures for three months, finally received them.
It effectively means 11 per cent of the force is unable to patrol the streets.
It’s not uncommon for any police force to have a number of officers sidelined at any given time.
In fact, Rasode told The Leader Thursday she was not surprised at the number.
“No, I would have guessed that the number of non-roadable officers would have been higher,” Rasode said. “I was pleasantly surprised that it’s in the range that it’s been for a number of years.”
Surrey RCMP Cpl. Bert Paquet said the numbers aren’t unlike that of any other large organization.
“Like any employer, we have some employees who are not working (due to extended illness, parental leaves, etc.),” Paquet said. “This number fluctuates frequently.”
When the issue came up 12 years ago, then-mayor Doug McCallum said he “just about had a heart attack” when he was told that 43 RCMP members were “non-roadable.”
Then-officer in charge of the RCMP Randy Bennett told The Leader at the time there will always be a number of officers who can’t hit the streets.
“They (administrators) know that you’re always going to have anywhere from eight to 12 per cent of the establishment not available for work,” Bennett told The Leader in 2002. “Those numbers are not unusual, not out-of-sync with other municipal police departments, with other RCMP detachments.”
McCallum, who is running for mayor this fall, had requested the non-roadable numbers through Access to Information laws.
While Rasode was unsurprised by the figures, she was shocked to learn it leaves only 36 members per shift able to hit the streets.
While there are many more police officers on duty, many are in specialized units, such as traffic, or dog teams. Only the three dozen represent general duty officers on beat or patrol.
“That’s unacceptable in a growing community that is so geographically large,” Rasode said. “It makes me question the poor officer who is trying to make it into a call within the response time, their workloads, their stress loads, there’s lots of issues around that.”
Acting Mayor Linda Hepner said the city continues to add more police officers each year. She said how those officers are deployed is an RCMP issue.
Doug Elford, spokesperson for the Newton Community Association, said Friday after the brutal killing of hockey mom Julie Paskall outside a civic ice arena in December, Surrey officials promised more boots on the ground.
“I took that to mean general duty officers,” Elford told The Leader.
Surrey RCMP sent out a release on Friday, indicating the general duty numbers don’t give the full picture of policing in Surrey.
“It’s important for people to realize that policing goes far beyond general duty,” wrote Acting Officer in Charge Trent Rolfe. “We have numerous specialized units who are also on duty, providing police service to the City of Surrey.”
Rasode, who chaired the city’s police committee for years, insists general duty members are critically important.
“General duty members are the first line of contact with business and the community,” Rasode said Friday.
To augment their service, she wants to bring in another tier of policing that will see an additional 200 community constables – similar to auxiliary officers – trained by police on foot patrol as soon as possible.
The new officers would be unarmed, but would be dressed for duty and walking a beat in all of Surrey’s five policing districts.
Under her plan, the officers would be trained in Surrey by senior RCMP officers within civic facilities.
She says they could be trained and ready to go in seven weeks, noting a similar program is in place and working well in Langford, B.C.
While regular RCMP officers are trained at Depot in Regina, the process often results in delays getting new Mounties on the ground.
Surrey is currently waiting for 30 full-time RCMP officers it has ordered who haven’t completed training yet.
“Our communities are calling for some intensive care right now,” Rasode said, adding the police need to be on the street right away.
She will be bringing the issue up at the September Police Committee meeting to get council’s approval for the plan.
Hiring 200 community constables will cost an estimated $8 million annually, but Rasode says Surrey can afford it.
“We don’t have money issues, we have spending issues,” Rasode said.