Allegations of RCMP bullying detailed in Surrey police court docs

A photograph included in an investigative report detailing allegations of harassment by RCMP officers against Surrey Police Service members shows the workplace of a senior officer who had a 'Keep the RCMP in Surrey' sign on his desk as well as an election sign for Mayor Brenda Locke. (B.C. Supreme Court - image credit)
A photograph included in an investigative report detailing allegations of harassment by RCMP officers against Surrey Police Service members shows the workplace of a senior officer who had a 'Keep the RCMP in Surrey' sign on his desk as well as an election sign for Mayor Brenda Locke. (B.C. Supreme Court - image credit)

In one incident, a mixed-race Surrey Police Service officer allegedly saw Surrey RCMP members play a game mocking a Black male suspect.

In another, an RCMP officer was heard yelling "hide the food" before trying to touch a Surrey Police Service officer's stomach with his hand.

And in yet another, a Surrey Police Service officer — assigned to work with the RCMP's special victims unit as part of a transition from the federal force to a municipal squad — said she was told "the RCMP had not planned for SPS officers to stay beyond a week."

All three incidents are detailed — along with dozens more — in a summary of a Surrey Police Service (SPS) investigative report filed in B.C. Supreme Court Thursday that concluded RCMP officers had subjected their municipal counterparts to "harassment and a toxic work environment"

Ben Nelms/CBC
Ben Nelms/CBC

"Harassment by the RCMP has negatively affected the health and welfare of SPS officers," wrote the author of the report, SPS Insp. Bal Brach, who himself joined the SPS after a 25-year career with the RCMP.

As an example, Brach then cited the experience of the officer who served with the special victims unit (SVU) — a 14-year veteran of the New Westminster police who claimed the assignment led to her being unjustly barred from working with the Surrey detachment.

"She felt that her time deployed to SVU was dehumanizing, full of hatred and trickery and was oppressive and emotionally and psychologically exhausting," Brach wrote.

"She now has increased anxiety in the workplace and fears that her professional reputation, that she worked hard to build for nearly 15 years, has been slandered because of the ill intentions of [eight RCMP non-commissioned officers]."

Three SPS officers barred from detachment

Brach's unredacted 10-page summary was filed with the court despite arguments from a government lawyer who claimed making them public could cause "undue public concern about the state of affairs at the Surrey RCMP detachment."

The document is part of an affidavit filed by Surrey Police Service union President Rick Stewart in a failed attempt by the union for intervenor status in the city's bid to overturn Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth's decision ordering a transition to a municipal police force.

Ben Nelms/CBC
Ben Nelms/CBC

Hundreds of SPS officers have been hired to work alongside members of the Surrey RCMP as the two forces prepare for the municipal squad to take over as Surrey's police of jurisdiction at the end of November.

According to the documents, the events leading to Brach's investigation began with the RCMP's decision to end the assignments of three senior SPS officers — including the woman who has been assigned to the special victims unit.

"The termination of the assignments resulted in the SPS [officers] being barred from working with the Surrey detachment," Brach wrote.

"The events and circumstances related to the termination of the SPS [officers] and the experiences of the three witness officers deployed to the Surrey detachment SVU suggested the RCMP had breached its obligation to provide a healthy workplace for SPS staff."

'Too many 'Black people'

What follows is a litany of complaints from Brach's interviews with 12 SPS officers, all of whom joined the municipal police force after serving with other Canadian police departments, including the RCMP, where some of them spent decades.

The officers claimed RCMP colleagues subjected them to ridicule, intimidation and demeaning behaviour. They also accused RCMP officers of misuse or abuse of authority.

B.C. Supreme Court
B.C. Supreme Court

In one case, an officer who spent 20 years with Vancouver police said RCMP management denied requests by members of the police mental health outreach team to "ride as two-person cars" after a Burnaby RCMP officer was stabbed to death while making a wellness check.

The same mixed-race SPS officer — who came to the municipal force after 15 years with the Toronto Police Service — claimed that an RCMP or City of Surrey employee said they "disliked the city of Toronto as there are too many 'Black people' in the city."

Brach's report also includes two photographs — one of a cluttered storage area in the Surrey detachment where a Surrey Police Service officer was forced to work, and the other of a sign on the desk of a senior RCMP officer reading 'Keep the RCMP in Surrey.'"

A policing void?

Beyond the investigative report, Stewart's affidavit also contains the collective agreement between the Surrey Police Board and the Surrey Police Union, which stipulates SPS officers receive 18 months notice in the event of a decision to reverse the transition to a municipal force.

The judicial review is expected to wrap at the end of the week. In its arguments, the City of Surrey claims Farnworth is trying to impose a municipal force on the city that will increase the annual cost of policing by at least $75 million — a hike of about 46 per cent.

B.C. Supreme Court
B.C. Supreme Court

The city's lawyers claim Farnworth's decision is unreasonable and is undermining the democratic will of Surrey taxpayers who voted in 2022 to stick with the RCMP.

The city claims Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke and Premier David Eby had reached a deal to proceed, but that Farnworth then "pulled the rug out" from under Surrey voters in July 2023 by concluding that a switch back to the RCMP would endanger public safety.

The province fears a return to the RCMP could throw Surrey into a policing void if newly hired municipal officers leave en masse once it becomes clear their jobs are doomed. And pulling RCMP officers from other jurisdictions to fill the gaps could create problems elsewhere.

Dawn Roberts, a spokesperson with the B.C. RCMP, said Thursday in an email she could not comment on the allegations in Brach's report because the RCMP does not have a copy of it nor the affidavits filed in court.

"The RCMP is committed to providing a healthy, safe and respectful work place for all employees, free of harassment and discrimination," Roberts wrote.

"Surrey RCMP and SPS officers have worked together in the detachment for over two years and have done so with professionalism. The RCMP takes all respectful workplace allegations seriously, and has robust measures in place for any issues raised by personnel in the detachment, including RCMP members and assigned Surrey Police Service officers."