2 B.C. mayors fear their communities will pay more for policing if Surrey drops RCMP

Two municipalities in British Columbia say they're concerned their communities will end up paying more for law enforcement if Surrey drops the RCMP in favour of creating its own police force.

The issue comes down to funding and how much each municipality pays toward shared costs of RCMP, the federal police force with detachments in many B.C. communities.

"I'm not convinced, at the end of the day, that Surrey leaving is going to be positive for other municipalities that pay for RCMP policing," said Al Siebring, mayor of North Cowichan on Vancouver Island.

"Their costs may actually go up."

Although RCMP detachments are linked to specific municipalities, they often share resources and work together on integrated teams across the province — teams that deal with homicide investigations, police dog services and collision analysis, for example. 

There are also fixed costs such as administration and training. 

Surrey, with the biggest RCMP detachment in the country, pays a significant portion of the shared costs. 

In August, the provincial government gave Surrey the go-ahead to transition to its own municipal police force.


Who pays what into the pot?

But Siebring is concerned municipalities like his will have to pick up the slack if Surrey is no longer paying into the RCMP pot. 

"This is the kind of detail that most municipal politicians aren't even aware of," Siebring said

He recently penned a letter to the committee that deals with RCMP contract management between local governments and the province. 

In the letter, Siebring said he sought answers on how much more municipalities will have to pay if Surrey leaves.

"These are all valid questions that just need an answer," said Craig Hodge, co-chair of the committee. 

"I'm sure there is a way that all of this can be worked through as Surrey transitions into its own police force but, at the same time, we just want to make sure that there's not an impact on other communities that are still relying on RCMP."

Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press

Questions about impact

The District of Squamish, after seeing Siebring's letter, voted last week to also call on the province to consider the implications of Surrey moving away from the RCMP. 

"The biggest concern for us is that those conversations [about funding] and that potential impact is being considered as the negotiations between the province and Surrey go ahead," said Jenna Stoner, acting mayor of Squamish. 

Other municipal police forces, such as West Vancouver and Port Moody, also participated in integrated teams across B.C. without being part of the RCMP — a possible option for Surrey which was recommended in a public report on the city's transition.

A spokesman for the provincial Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth, said he was looking into the impact of Surrey's departure on other municipalities.