Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke sees Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth’s move to put the “completely dysfunctional” Surrey Police Board on ice and appoint an administer in its stead as a decision on his part that Surrey doesn’t need civilian oversight.
“The minister has decided that Surrey doesn’t need civilian oversight at the police board and so he suspended the entire police board,” she told the Now-Leader. “I think there’s no question, if anyone looks back at the open part of the police board meetings, this police board was completely dysfunctional. The province knew that, the former director of police services knew that, they have apologized to me for the behaviour of the board.”
Farnworth on Nov. 16 temporarily suspended the SPB – of which Locke was chairwoman – and appointed retired Abbotsford police chief Mike Serr as its replacement administrator.
“Today, I am announcing the appointment of Mike Serr as the administrator of the Surrey Police Board to assume the functions of the board to assist with Surrey’s transition to the SPS,” Farnworth stated in a press release. “All members of the Surrey Police Board have been suspended and they will resume their roles when the administrator’s appointment concludes.”
Farnworth noted Serr’s appointment was made under Section 8 of the Police Amendment Act “after careful consideration of the work by the Surrey Police Board, which has been limited due to the lack of progress from the City of Surrey in advancing the police model transition to the SPS.”
“This need was identified by Jessica McDonald as the strategic implementation adviser in the course of her work on the transition and numerous meetings with key parties, subject matter experts and stakeholders,” Farnworth said.
“I want to personally thank each member of the board for volunteering their time and for their dedication and commitment, while undertaking this challenging work to date. I know the Surrey Police Board and each board member has done their best through what has been unique, challenging and complicated circumstances. I look forward to their continued work and their service to the people of Surrey once an administrator is no longer needed.”
Farnworth said by appointing Serr as administrator he’s “taking action to help move forward the transition (from the Surrey RCMP to Surrey Police Service) to completion.”
Locke reiterated the board “was completely dysfunctional.
“The minister didn’t acknowledge that, which is unfortunate. This whole process is on the provincial government. There’s no doubt in my mind, because the minister never required due diligence from the beginning, from five years ago, when we didn’t do all those really important first steps, we’re in this terrible mess, and he allowed that, and do here we are today and it’s really unfortunate,” Locke said. At the end of the day, we know that staying with the RCMP is the absolute right thing to do for Surrey.”
Melissa Granum, executive director of the Surrey Police Board, declined to comment “at this time,” except to say that “the board respects the decision of the government.”
Surrey Police Service’s Chief Constable Norm Lipinski issued a statement on Nov. 16 thanking the SPB for “the outstanding work they have done over the past three years to stand up a brand-new police agency while navigating an unprecedented policing transition.
“These board members have done an enormous amount of work to get Surrey Police Service to the point it is at today,” reads a quote attributed to Lipinski. “The work of good governance can be thankless, but strong policies, clear organizational direction, and transparent financial oversight are critical to both the organization and the public. I thank the Surrey Police Board members for their leadership, expertise and resilience, and I look forward to working with them again, once their appointments resume.”
Lipinski added that he’s looking forward to working with Serr.
“As an independent Administrator, Mr. Serr will assume all governance duties of the Surrey Police Board, ensuring that the civilian oversight and public accountability of Surrey Police Service will continue. I am confident that Mr. Serr will play a critical role in helping to expedite the policing transition with this streamlining of governance decisions for Surrey Police Service,” Lipinski said.
On Oct. 13, the City of Surrey filed a petition with the Supreme Court of British Columbia seeking a judicial review of Farnworth’s July 19 order to proceed with the SPS, as the mayor continues to stands firm in the majority of council’s intention to stick with the RCMP as Surrey’s police of jurisdiction.
The provincial government has yet to file a response to Surrey’s petition with the court registry and “for reasons that are privileged” cannot provide an estimated date. Respondents served in Canada are typically given 21 days to respond.
“As far as I know there hasn’t been a response filed and I will be meeting with lawyers about that very soon,” Locke said.
At Surrey’s Oct. 16 council meeting Locke revealed she instructed city staff to undertake a review of the policing transition, from day one to now.
“That’s ongoing,” she said Nov. 17, adding she hopes to receive a report before year’s end. “I want a complete chronological review of what has happened, where all the points were missed along the way and I think it’s important that the public understands that this was never constructed properly from the get-go.
“There were many, many pieces, and as a councillor I was raising them constantly, as you know, and they were always dismissed. But now it’s all coming home to roost.”