British Columbia judge says Surrey Police Union can’t join court fight

BC Supreme Court ruling says union allegations of RCMP intimidation against Surrey officers would hijack case over who polices Surrey

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The union of members of the new Surrey police force will not be allowed to participate in the court case to decide the future of policing in Surrey because the issues it raises about alleged harassment and intimidation by outgoing RCMP members would hijack the case, said a BC Supreme Court. The court judge ruled.

The Surrey Police Union had requested to participate in an upcoming hearing on a petition from the city of Surrey asking the court to overturn the province’s order to continue the RCMP’s transition to the Surrey Police Service. A five-day hearing is scheduled for April 29.

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The union’s application laid out, without citing details, a “toxic and hostile” environment at the RCMP detachment described by more than a dozen of the 220 SPS officers who work there.

Fourteen union members had filed a group complaint alleging 50 instances of “bullying, harassment, discrimination and intimidation” and the union said there were also outstanding health and safety violations and wanted those issues to be considered during the city’s petition to the court against the province, according to the decision published Wednesday.

The union argued in its court filing that it has a direct interest in the process because if the city’s petition is successful, the union will be eliminated, Judge Kevin Loo wrote in his decision.

The city opposed the union joining the action.

Loo ruled that the issues raised by the union would change and expand the scope of the court hearing, “thereby controlling the procedure” and forcing the two sides to respond to issues that are not relevant to their dispute.

If the union were added as a party or intervenor, its claim would “effectively take over the proceedings by increasing the number of issues and overall scope of the litigation” and would increase costs and delays in a matter that must be resolved quickly.

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About 220 SPS officers are working in the RCMP detachment along with about 515 RCMP officers as part of the province-mandated transition to the municipal force. During the transition, the RCMP remains the police force of jurisdiction.

“The transition has been plagued by political gamesmanship, excessive delays and a toxic environment at the Surrey RCMP detachment,” an affidavit from SPS Sgt. Rick Stewart filed the union petition. He said the toxic workplace made it difficult to recruit and retain officers and that 36 officers resigned from the Surrey force.

RCMP spokesperson Cpl. Alex Berube of E Division headquarters previously said the RCMP is not a party to the process and declined to comment beyond saying the two forces have worked together “professionally” over the past year and a half.

Surrey Police Board Executive Director Melissa Granum previously said 14 SPS officers involved in the complaint have been removed from the RCMP detachment and are instead working in administrative roles.

Berube said when a call comes in from the public, staff from the Surrey RCMP detachment will dispatch the officer, SPS or RCMP, closest to the location or whoever is most available.

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