Surrey RCMP call tweet by incoming municipal police service an 'information breach'

CTV News has obtained an internal memo from the Surrey RCMP that calls a tweet by the incoming municipal police force an “information breach.”

The tweet sent Thursday was one of the new Surrey Police Service's regular #SPSFacts.

It linked to an article with documents attached that included an outline of the estimated timeline for Surrey Police Service deployment. According to that chart, deployment starts in October.

In the internal memo Chief Superintendent Brian Edwards said, “I am very concerned that the information breached agreed upon communication protocols.”

Read the full memo, as obtained by CTV News, below.

The Surrey Police Service deleted the tweet and Sharlene Brooks, the public affairs and communications manager for the Surrey Police Service, explained some of that information published was “premature” and had yet to be approved. She did not say what parts of the information had yet to be approved.

“It was a mistake,” said Brooks. “I don’t believe that this will disrupt progress in anyway, this was not an act of bad faith, this was simply a mistake.”

In his memo, Edwards said, “That Fall 2021 timeline is being assessed for its feasibility and there is no agreement in place that the proposed SPS deployment model is the way forward.”

Brooks explained the information came from a presentation made by Chief Const. Norm Lipinski during the open portion of a police board meeting.

The trilateral working groups is made of up all three levels of government, the RCMP and Surrey Police Service. The group has been meeting regularly to oversee the transfer of policing from the RCMP to the Surrey Police Service.

In the memo, Edwards said Deputy Commissioner Jennifer Strachan, who is on the Surrey Police Transition Trilateral Committee, is “disappointed about what occurred, and the impacts this can have on the trust needed between all the parties involved in this transition and most importantly the trust you need to have in us around the project.”

Edwards concluded the memo by saying he does not want members to be “caught off guard” and they will share information as they can.

CTV News reached out other members of the trilateral working group for comment but none responded before publishing. The City of Surrey directed CTV News to the police board and Surrey Police Service.

“For myself as the communications manager, we certainly don’t want to inflict any more angst over the transition than I’m sure (current RCMP members are) feeling,” said Brooks. “To have something come out that they have not already been made aware of is most unfortunate and I certainly apologize to them for that.”

She added that she hopes many of the officers will apply to the Surrey Police Service.

The #SPSFacts tweets are done in an effort to keep the public informed about the transition process, and to be remain both open and transparent, said Brooks.

“We are being open, we are owning it, we put it out believing it was approved and since learned otherwise,” she said.

When asked why they didn’t issue a clarification right after the tweet was removed, Brooks explained that they didn’t know which information in the document was premature but said a new #SPSFacts would be tweeted later Friday.

In the memo Edwards told his staff the “information breach” will be discussed at the next committee meeting.

Read the full memo below.

Good afternoon,

I am aware that information was released on Thursday afternoon by Surrey Police Service that included an estimated timeline of a deployment. While it was identified as being inappropriate and pulled down from their public website and social media channels within hours, I am very concerned that the information breached agreed upon communication protocols. These are the very protocols I have referenced when I say I am not in a position to share specifics about the proposed model.

The “SPSFacts” referenced the April 6, 2021 Surrey Police Transition Trilateral Committee (SPTTC), which Deputy Brennan discussed in the internal communique a few weeks ago. (http://infoweb.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/edivision/districts/lowermainland/surrey-transition/broadcasts/2021-04-19-projectboard-eng.htm). The SPS information indicated that a target deployment timeline of fall 2021 “has been agreed to”.

To be clear – that Fall 2021 timeline is being assessed for its feasibility and there is no agreement in place that the proposed SPS deployment model is the way forward. The Subject Matter Expert (SME) groups have been meeting regularly and significant work is underway to look at the proposal and its impacts on our people and on operations. We have a number of Surrey RCMP senior managers as part of the various working groups, in addition to RCMP representatives from division and national.

It is clear from the updates I have received from these groups that we have some of the best representatives in our organization involved. Each of these individuals have continued to voice the importance of putting our people first, because of the work and life impacts and uncertainty that transition creates.

I have spoken with D/Commr. Strachan, who is on the SPTTC, and the information breach will be discussed at the next committee meeting. She too is disappointed about what occurred, and the impacts this can have on the trust needed between all the parties involved in this transition and most importantly the trust you need to have in us around the project.

I need you to know whether it is in the internal messages, or other discussions we have about the policing transition that we do not want you to be caught off guard and we remain committed to sharing timely information with you as soon as we can.

Thank you

Brian