Surrey RCMP denies one of its officers hassled people for using their phones in McDonald's drive-through

The initial allegation came just as the Mounties were going out of their way to win favour with the public

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      The Surrey RCMP has gone into overdrive over the past year to try to build goodwill in the community.

      That's because a major issue in the last municipal election campaign was whether B.C.'s second-largest city should create its own police force.

      Mayor Doug McCallum now seems intent on following through on his election promise. The city even unveiled what Surrey police vehicles would look like.

      If he succeeds in gaining provincial approval, the national police force would lose its largest municipal contract.

      And it would come after the RCMP spent $1 billion on a new regional headquarters building in the Green Timbers area.

      Nowadays, the Mounties in Surrey routinely flood the reporters' inboxes with news releases, keeping their organization in the public eye via electronic and print media.

      Today's annual RCMP Open House was another example of the national police force trying to win over local residents.

      Assistant Commissioner Dwayne McDonald even volunteered to be tossed in the dunk tank to raise money to fight cancer. 

      Earlier this week, the Surrey Mounties joined the local Muslim community for Iftar. That's when the faithful break their fast and enjoy a meal after sunset during the holy month of Ramadan.

      It was another way for the RCMP to make friends.

      So it seems strange in the midst of this PR blitz that a Mountie would tick people off by approaching drivers in a McDonald's drive-through to see if they were using their phones.

      But that was recently alleged over Twitter by optometrist Tej Dhaliwal, who also posted a video.

      The RCMP, however, was quick off the mark in insisting that the officer was not checking phone usage in the drive-through. Good public relations always involves a quick response.

      "Officers were in the area following up on an unrelated investigation when they observed the driver on their phone prior to entering the drive-through," Surrey Mounties tweeted. "A verbal warning was given."

      It's worth noting that the Surrey RCMP also tweeted that drive-throughs are considered part of the roadway.

      So it's possible that motorists could be ticketed there for using their phones while waiting for a Big Mac. Just don't expect it to happen when the national police force is in a titanic battle with the mayor for the hearts and minds of Surrey residents.