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A History of Policing in Surrey

This History is based in part on D. Laird Allan's History of Policing in Surrey. Laird served in the Surrey from Nov. 1972 to July 1976 and from May 1979 to Sept. 1991. He retired from the Force from "E" Division HQ Traffic Services as a Sgt. on May 29th, 2002. Sgt. D. Laird Allan, Reg. # 28821. His History of Policing is available at the Surrey Archives.

Surrey Police Badge RCMP Badge

Surrey Police Force 1887 to 1951

The Municipality of Surrey was incorporated in 1879. Since that time the District has developed into the largest District Municipality in land area with a population, in 2006, of almost 400,000. During that period policing in Surrey has grown from one part–time policeman to its present 2007 complement of over 600 police officers and 200 support staff.

In Surrey's earliest years the population was light, roads and trails were poor, and most settlers knew who was living in the district at the time. They kept a sharp look out for strangers who might cause trouble and most carried guns when away from home. This did not change until logging practices grew in the district and plans for the New Westminster Southern Railway were announced. If problems did arise, the settlers would get together to attempt to solve it themselves.

Surrey Police Badge

The badge worn by the Surrey Police is seen on the left. On the right is a picture of the badge and the years of its use.

Surrey Police Badge

Edmund T. Wade

On March 18, 1887 the Municipal Council appointed Edmund T. Wade as the first official constable. This was probably a part time position as Mr. Wade had a home and farm on McLellan Road near Surrey Centre.

However, unlawful activities must have been growing as Council, on May 23, 1888, the clerk was authorized to purchase a revolver and hand cuffs for the use of the Corporation constable. Henry Bose's History of Surrey. Constable Wade served the District from 1887 to 1904.

In 1904 Edwin M. Carncross, the Municipal Clerk was appointed constable on an interim basis until a permanent constable could be appointed but that temporary appointment continued in a part time position until 1909. 1904 saw the opening of the New Westminster Rail and Road Bridge which brought many more people into Surrey. As a result Council appointed the local blacksmith A.D. (Alex) Matheson, on Sept. 2nd 1905 along with J. (Joseph) Drinkwater as his assistant.

A.D. (Alex) Matheson

Matheson and Drinkwater were the first full time officers appointed at a monthly salary of $20.00. Matheson was officially appointed chief in 1911 at a salary of $50 per month.

J. (Joseph) Drinkwater

If assistance was required temporary services would be hired. In 1909, Council authorized the payment for police services to Edward Parr, Henry Thrift, and Fred Pepin.

The wages paid by the municipality were too low to live on. Alex Matheson continued to operate his blacksmith shop and took on many additional Corporation duties including welfare issuances, collecting poll tax and business licenses. Joe Drinkwater supplemented his income by working as Road Tax Collector and Inspector of Fisheries on the Serpentine and Nicomekl Rivers.

In the early years major crimes were handled by the BC Provincial Police on a per case basis. Surrey Council authorized the payment of $6.95 to chief constable C.S. Campbell of an outside jurisdiction, and $18.30 to Provincial Police Senior Constable Otway Wilkie in expenses regarding the murder of a Japanese mill worker in White Rock in 1910. Lorraine Ellenwood, Year of Promise: White Rock 1886–1988.

Facilities developed as the demand arose. In 1908 Mrs. Morrison, from Halls Prairie, was murdered and this created a bad feeling against tramps so that on the 27th of June a public meeting was held and the following resolution passed.

Whereas, there are no facilities for the care of prisoners of any kind in the Municipality, and whereas the time has arrived when provisions should be made for the effective case of undesirables.
Resolved that in the opinion of this meeting the Council should at the earliest possible date erect a suitable building for the reception of prisoners and make provisions for employing such as may be on their hands or in their charge.

Blacksmith Shop

As a result of that resolution, on September 5, 1908 the contract for constructing a concrete Jail in Cloverdale was let to F. Moore for #2,100.00. The new jail was in the vicinity of Alex Matheson's blacksmith shop.

1912 Municipal Hall

In 1912, a new Municipal Hall was opened. It housed the Surrey Police Department, Surrey Court, School Board as well as the municipal staff. The municipal works yard was located directly north of the hall.

As the population grew and auto traffic increased additional policing was necessary. In 1920, L.E. (Leonard) Collishaw was appointed assistant officer and within a few years William Mortimer joined the force. Mortimer was the Districts first motorcycle constable. Len Collishaw was in charge of highway patrol while Bill Mortimer kept up with other misdeeds. Chief Matheson had a car, purchased in 1915, but the other officers used motorcycles. These proved better than cars as they could get around on the narrow, often very poor roads. If the roads were jammed the constables could ride alongside the road to get to the scene.

Alex Matheson served the District from 1905 to 1937 as Constable and later as Chief of Police. He was a blacksmith by trade and was a physically big man who was admired for his high principles. In addition to his Chief of Police duties he was often asked to assume other roles. In 1911 he was named caretaker of the public hall in Cloverdale. In 1914 he was appointed Sanitary Inspector. From June 1914 to 1919 he was appointed Road Tax Collector. In 1922 he was appointed District Fire Marshall. In 1926 he was appointed License Inspector. From 1928 to 1932 he acted as Relief Officer. To handle all these portfolios he must have been a very capable man.

In 1918 Surrey Council established a Police Commission to guide the direction of the local force. The early years the members were appointed and those who served were: David Barton, R.D. MacKenzie, Alex Murphy, William Ried, William J. Moffat, and Charles Raine. In 1932 the position of Police Commissioner became an elected one and Edgar Colin James held that position until 1936. In that year Alex McBeth was elected.

In 1922 a substation was established in White Rock. The office was at Martin and Marine and in time public washrooms were placed in the basement. With the expanding summer population in White Rock their policing needs changed from summer to winter. The Police Commission began to hire special resident summer constables. Special Constables were hired for the three summer months at $3 per day. Henry Thrift, Alex McBeth, W.J. McMahon, John McIntosh, and W.E. Johnson acted in that capacity over the summers until in 1925 summer constable George Roe took over. A horse was purchased in 1926 to give him better access. Speed limits were 20 mph, but many summer residents would drive as fast as 40 mph along Marine Drive.

In Crescent Beach a local constable was also hired to provide security to the summer homes in the off season. Albert Berry was appointed Sheriff. He was given a badge (#32), a 32 revolver, and five dollars a year to make it legal. This gave him some authority to protect the properties from the occasional hobo who would break into the empty houses in the winter to steal food or blankets. On one occasion Mr. Berry tracked down a thief at Colebrook station, arrested him, walked him over to the jail at Cloverdale, and walked home to Crescent.

When Alex Matheson retired in 1937, constable Collishaw, who had been with the force since 1920, was named as chief. He held this position until his sudden death in 1942. He was succeeded by E.J. (Jack) Idler who stayed for less than two years before leaving for other work in Vancouver. He was followed by former Vancouver policeman, Elton Pearce and held the position from 1945 and 16 months thereafter. 1945 was also the year that Constable Mortimer retired after over 20 years service with the force.

Surrey Police 1946

William J. Moffat assumed the role of Chief in 1945 and served until 1948. Moffat had begun his career as a night duty constable in White Rock. From 1925 to 1930 he had served as a member of Surrey's Police Commission. The opening of the Patullo Bridge in 1937 and the post war population boom resulted in increased crime and traffic offenses in Surrey. When Moffat requested three additional officers to meet the District's needs, Surrey Council authorized a plebiscite on Municipal Policing by Provincial Police. That a plebiscite be taken at the annual Municipal Election to obtain the opinion of the Electors on the question of Provincial Police. The outcome was; YES, 945; NO, 1259.

Moffat retired in 1948 and he was followed by J.L. (Jim) Craig. He was not in the position long as in 1950 a referendum determined that the RCMP should take over District Policing. The Municipal Force consisted of 11 officers at the time. The take over occurred on May 1st, 1951.

By-Law Badge

The Surrey Police Department still exists. At present, there are Constables along with civilian staff of Municipal Employees who provide police service to the community in by–law enforcement.

The Chief Constables who served Surrey as members of the Surrey Police were:

Surrey RCMP 1951 – 2007

From 1920 to 1951 the RCMP stationed one man acting as a Federal Preventive Services Member (Customs and Excise) in an office situated in the area of the 5800 block of 176th Street (Mr. A. J. Burrow's residence). The member's duties were to patrol the Canadian/USA border crossing, which is seven miles south of Cloverdale.

Three members of the local police force joined the RCMP: James Craig, the Municipal Chief at the time of the take over, Constable Mel McKay of White Rock and Constable Paul Starek of Cloverdale. Fifteen RCMP officers took over police duties in Surrey at the transfer.

In 1990, RCMP Commissioner Norman Inkster gave a brief history of the conditions at the time of the 1951 take over.

In 1951, the RCMP began serving Surrey with an 18 man detachment in Cloverdale, serving a population of 35,000. Today (1990) a 271 person detachment, the largest in Canada, serves a population of over 225,000.
Conditions were less than glamorous in the police station first used by the RCMP in Surrey. Headquarters consisted of an office 12 X 15 feet. It was adjoined by four cells with two bunks each. But only three cells were used because the fourth served as a storage area for exhibits.
The Chief's office which contained a small desk, was entirely filled when the chief was at his desk and a visitor was being interviewed. The door couldn't be opened except with some difficulty.
The Magistrate's office was a small cubbyhole immediately behind the chief's office, and I know this sounds improbable, even smaller that the chiefs. The place was also extremely cold in the winter despite efforts of the municipal engineers to make the office more comfortable. RCMP Commissioner Norman Inkster at the opening of the Surrey Police Headquarters in October 1990.

RCMP staff 1951

These are the RCMP members who took over the Police duties for Surrey in 1951.

1952 RCMP office

The RCMP force was too large for the offices at Municipal Hall so that a new office was opened in 1952 at 5900 Main Street (now 177B St.) and was used until 1963. The building was designed as a laundry but was never used as such. It was purchased and then used as the Police Detachment. The Police offices were on the first floor and the Traffic section and the members' quarters were on the second floor. After the Police Detachment moved, the building was used by the Boy Scouts until it was demolished in the mid 1970s.

Through the period 1952 to 1963 the N.C.O.s in charge of the Surrey Detachment were:

During their period in office the force grew from 18 to 63 officers.

1963 annex

In 1953 to meet the expanding needs of Civic Government an annex, designed by John Furiak Superintendent of Works, was built by municipal works crews. It adjoined the 1912 building on the east wall. The civic staff occupied the premise until Civil Government was moved to new premises in 1963 at northwest of Hwy #10 and 144th Street. That same year, 1963, the Police detachment moved from its main street location to take over the entire civic complex. The municipal jail was located in the annex to the east of the 1912 building.

The force occupied this office from 1963 to 1973 and the N.C.O.s during that period were:

During their period in office, 1963 to 1973, the force grew from 63 to 150 officers.

By 1964, Surrey's population had grown rapidly and the RCMP force had grown accordingly. A detachment of 76 men policed a population of approximately 78,000. As public safety demands grew so did Surrey's RCMP. By 1976, regular members numbered 178 to serve a population of approximately 125,000. Of the 178, six of these officers were women, the first of whom arrived in 1975. In addition, there were 29 auxiliary officers, volunteers who assisted in policing special events and assisting regular officers. By 1978 the total number of regular members in the Surrey Detachment had grown to 189. By 1979, the Surrey RCMP was the second largest force in Canada.

1973 Police Headquarters 1973 Police Headquarters

The rapidly growing force had outgrown the original 1912 building and the annex at 17671 56th Avenue. The annex was demolished and a new RCMP building at 17695 56th Avenue was completed and opened in 1973, the original 1912 building was renovated to become the Library.

Official opening 1973 Official opening 1973

The picture on the left is the day of the official opening of the building at 17695 – 56th Avenue and the Canadian Flag is being raised. On the right Mayor William Vanderzalm, Alderperson Rita Johnston, and O.I.C. J.A.B. Riddell preside at the official opening of the building.

By 1976, forty–seven Municipal employees worked for the RCMP doing clerical and office work at the one central office in Cloverdale. There were four police dogs and 58 RCMP owned vehicles. There were 50 jail cells in the Cloverdale headquarters. The force also had acquired a Breathalyzer Van and Crime Prevention Trailer equipped with a lock and alarm display and displays on drug control and public awareness. Other programs to raise public awareness were also developed and provided. Neighbourhood Watch programs were introduced into the district.

Safety Bear Block Watch Symbol Auxiliary Police

The force occupied the offices at 17695 56th Avenue from May 23, 1973 to January 1990 and the O.I.C.s during that period were:

During their period in office, 1973 to 1990, the force grew from 150 to 270 officers.

RCMP Police badge Opening Ceremony 1990

The continued growth of the District, and by 1984 the City of Surrey, resulted in the need for a new Justice Complex. The Surrey RCMP Detachment had grown to be the largest municipal detachment in Canada. Growth in the Justice System brought pressures for a new Provincial Court Complex and a Remand Centre. In 1990 a new Police Building, Pre–trial Centre and Courthouse were opened at the Civic Government site on Hwy. 10 and 144th Street. An underground tunnel linked the Police building, Courthouse, and Pre-trial Centre building to ensure that transfers of prisoners from the Police Building's 32 cells are efficient and safe. The exterior of the buildings were designed to complement the architectural style of the Municipal Hall addition. The interior of the Police building was designed to create a pleasant, non-confrontational atmosphere for the public.

1990 RCMP office Surrey Court Complex

The new RCMP offices provided the standard police services, but in this new facility there were offices providing services for BLOCK WATCH, CRIME PREVENTION, YOUTH DETAIL, and VICTIM SERVICES. It also provides accommodation for the Municipal Emergency Coordinator.

Dog section Auxiliary Police Badge

The force occupied the offices at 14355 – 57th Avenue from January1990 to the present(2007) and the O.I.C.s during that period were:

During their period in office, 1990 to 2007, the force grew from 270 to 575 officers.

During the 1990s the decision was made to decentralize the working Police force in Surrey by creating Community Police Stations. Surrey was divided into a five of policing districts with local community stations. Each office has working space for on-duty officers and also accommodates auxiliary police and community police volunteers.

The following summaries are taken from the Surrey RCMP informational web site. http://www.rcmp–

The Surrey Detachment is the largest RCMP Detachment in Canada with over 600 police officers and 200 support staff including civilian members, public service employees and municipal employees. In addition, there are close to 100 auxiliary constables who volunteer thousands of hours on patrol with police officers and at various community events. As the largest Detachment in the country, Surrey has the advantage of having a number of specialized sections in addition to the general duties police officers on the road. The Property Crime Section deals with everything from auto theft and identity theft to fire investigations, while the Major Crime Section handles everything from robberies to child abuse and sexual offenses. *Surrey RCMP web site.

The Surrey RCMP has five district community offices across the city, as well as the main detachment located at 14355 57 Avenue in Surrey, near Surrey Provincial Court and City Hall.

Community Police Districts

District 1 – City Centre district covers northwest Surrey from the border with Delta, the Fraser River and east to 144th Street. The community office is located at 10720 King George Highway.

Surrey City Centre is 11 square miles in area with a population of close to 70,000. The district is broken down into 6 patrol zones. The district comprises 76 regular members. On the general duty uniform side there are eight teams comprising a Corporal in charge of each team along with 4–6 constables. In addition there is a Youth Liaison Section responsible for 18 elementary and 3 high schools. A 20 member support services section is comprised of a Foot Beat section, Fraser River Docks section, and Station Constables all under the guidance of two Cpl. Team Leaders and the District Commander. *Surrey RCMP web site

Fleetwood Community Police office

District 2 – Fleetwood community office is located at 15355 Fraser Highway. It covers the Fleetwood area to the Serpentine River and north to include the Guildford district and town centre.

The east and west boundaries are approximately 140th Street on the west and 176th Street and 168th Street on the east. At present District 2 have one Staff Sergeant, a four member Neighbourhood Liaison Unit and 50 Community Policing Volunteers. The District also has four watches of General Duty police officers, including ten Constables with two Supervising Corporals. As well, there is an Inspector and Sergeant in charge of each watch providing twenty-four hour, seven days a week coverage. There is also a three member Investigative Support Unit that can be used to assist each watch with tackling more complex criminal activity within the District. *Surrey RCMP web site.

District 3 – Newton's Community office is at 7235 137 Street as part of the Newton Town Centre. This district covers central Surrey east to the Serpentine River and Bear Creek and then north to 80th Avenue.

Newton the fastest growing area with the most varied cultural composition in Surrey. The latest census figures indicate a population of over 100,000 people within a 23 mile radius. District 3 has three main business areas, Newton Town Centre, the King George and 120th Street corridors. Between these business centres are large areas of residential housing, light industrial, warehousing and farming areas.
Diversity awareness is critical for RCMP members working in District 3 Newton. They must have a working knowledge and cross-cultural understanding of the ethnic groups in the area particularly the Indo Canadian community. Surrey has the largest Indo Canadian community in Canada. The police resources consist of 45 Constable, 5 Corporals, 1 Sgt. and 1 S/Sgt. and of course all cultures are represented in this group. Complementing this contingent is over 55 Volunteers who are reflective of the community and basically operate the District 3 Station. *Surrey RCMP web site.

Cloverdale Community Police Office

District 4 – Cloverdale includes the Cloverdale District, Clayton and Port Kells. The office is located at 5732 176 A Street.

The district covers the second largest patrol area in the City of Surrey, of approximately 50 sq. kilometers, and it is undergoing a dramatic growth in population. The current population is approximately 37,000, with a project population of 46,000 by 2006. District 4 consists of a mix of urban and rural areas, with both growing residential and industrial areas. The commercial areas are primarily located in downtown Cloverdale along Highway 10 and 176 Street, along Fraser Highway in the most eastern portion of the District, and the majority of the industrial area is in the Port Kells region of the most northern part of the most northern part of the district. *Surrey RCMP web site.

South Surrey Community Police office

South Surrey Community Police office originally opened in 1993 in the Peninsula Village Shopping Centre on 24th Avenue (between 152nd Street and King George Hwy). In the summer of 1966 it moved to the Windsor Square complex at 152nd Street and 20th Avenue before it moved to its permanent home in 2004 when the new Semiahmoo Library and Community Police office, at 1815 152nd Street, was opened.

This district covers South Surrey north to the Nicomekl River and 40th Avenue. District 5 is responsible for providing policing services to the South Surrey community, which comprises 34% of Greater Surrey (70.8 kilometers) and has an approximate population of 60,000 residents. The population is expected to grow to an estimated 72,000 residents by the end of the decade.
South Surrey offers a blend of rural, urban and recreational lifestyles. An agricultural based community in the western portion of the area provides an illusion of remoteness, while only minutes away from all the amenities that a large urban community can offer. The Crescent Beach area is offers spectacular scenery of the ocean, is home to year round residents and a destination point for families to enjoy strolls along the beach.
A Sergeant supervises the Community Liaison Constable, the 2 Neighborhood Liaison Constables, the 2 First Nations Constables, the District Office Coordinator and the Assistant District Office Coordinator. In addition, he liaises with the General Duty members, the 2 Youth Liaison Constables, the Crime Prevention Coordinator and the Youth Intervention Program Coordinator in the direct needs of the citizens and merchants of the South Surrey District. * Surrey RCMP web site.

Wall of Honour

On October 19, 2006 a Wall of Honour was unveiled to remember the lives of four fallen officers who died while on Duty in Surrey.

Constable Archille Octave Maxime Lepine reg. 21512 – On July 15, 1962, Constable Lepine was posted to the Patullo Bridge Unit in Surrey. He was driving a police motorcycle on King George Highway when a vehicle turned left in front of him. As a result of injuries from the collision, he passed away in hospital on July 19, 1962.

Constable Roger Emile Pierlet reg 29984 – On March 29, 1974, Constable Pierlet was on General Duty at Surrey Detachment, working his last shift before taking time off to be married. He noticed a vehicle being driven erratically and stopped the vehicle. The passenger was armed with a 30-30 rifle and fatally shot him in the chest. The driver and passenger were arrested and sentenced to the death penalty; these sentences were later commuted to life in prison.

Constable John Terrance Draginda reg. 27160 – On September 29, 1974, Constable Draginda was on General Duty at Surrey Detachment, riding with an Auxiliary Constable when, in responding to a report of a motor vehicle accident, they were involved in a collision with another vehicle at the intersection of 152nd Street and 96th Avenue. Constable Draginda and two people in the other vehicle died as a result.

Constable John Brian Baldwinson reg 25163 – On October 28, 1975, Constable Baldwinson was on the General Investigation Section at Surrey Detachment and driving back to the office. It was late at night, with poor visibility and he had just passed another police vehicle on Pacific Highway 15, when he collided with a horse on the roadway. Cst. Baldwinson died as a result of this collision.


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