The executive director of the new Surrey Police Board says civilian oversight is “fundamental” as far as policing is concerned, and she’s taken on this task “because I believe in it.”
The city’s policing transition process marked a milestone when the Surrey Police Board during its Aug. 6 inaugural meeting approved the creation of the Surrey Police Service.
Melissa Granum is the executive director of the board.
“It went very well,” she told the Now-Leader afterward.
“I was pleased with the board and their interest, their focus on the task and their professionalism. They clearly are passionate about this and I think they are going to work very well together.”
The board is expected to meet once a month.
“I truly believe in the fundamental importance of civilian oversight for the police and I’m here because I believe in it,” Granum said. “Hiring the police chief is one of the key priorities for the board. I can’t speak specifically to the date but I can say it’s a priority.”
She said the “targeted date” for the Surrey Police Service to take over from the Surrey RCMP is next April.
Projected capital costs, prior to a motion to establish the Surrey Police Service, were $45.2 million over three years with one-time capital costs of $25.2 million this year, $19.6 million in 2021 and $400,000 in 2022.
A city document indicates this money is to “support investments in the necessary infrastructure to establish the police service and include IT, fleet and equipment.”
The City of Surrey’s financial plan for 2018-22, again prior to the motion to establish a city police force here in Surrey, did not include “potential costs related to unionization and possible retroactive and wage increases.”
It placed the Surrey RCMP’s operating costs at $169.1 million this year, $176.5 million in 2021 and $183.9 million in 2022.
Meantime, the financial plan council approved for 2020-24 projects operating costs for policing in Surrey to be $166.9 million this year, $189.5 million in 2021 and $199.4 million in 2022. According to the document, based on this data projected costs for policing Surrey in 2022 will increase to $199.4 million in comparison to $183.9 million in projected costs under the RCMP for 2022, for a difference of 8.4 per cent.
The board’s members also passed a motion to request that the RCMP recognize the city police department as a “category 1 police agency in the National Police Information Service network” and for the city to start applications for the department to be connected to the network.
In addition, the board also approved members to the governance, human resources and finance committees but has yet to assign members to the Freedom of Information committee.
Its nine members – among them Mayor Doug McCallum (chairman) and members Meena Brisard, James Carwana, Semiahmoo First Nation Chief Harley Chappell, Cheney Cloke, Manav Gill, Elizabeth Model, Bob Rolls and Jaspreet Sunner – took their oath before Surrey provincial court Judge Therese Alexander.
Brisard, Carwana and Sunner will oversee HR and compensation and Chappell, Cloke and Rolls will make up the governance committee while Gill, Model and Rolls will handle finance.
The board’s next meeting is set for Sept. 15.
Terry Waterhouse, the general manager of the policing transition, gave a presentation on the transition to date.
As for the “category 1 status,” a report to the board from Waterhouse states the Provincial Municipal Policing Transition Study Committee report recommended the board “move expeditiously to establish the appropriate approvals for the SPS to connect to and integrate with mandatory integrated policing technology systems.”
Those systems would include the National Police Information Service, Police Records Information Management of B.C., the Justice Information Network of B.C. and the Emergency Communications of B.C.
Asked what the timeline is for being recognized, Waterhouse replied that it is “hard to predict exactly.”
The issue of transparency was also raised.
Chappell asked about the cost of the transition. He said he was asking in the “consistency of transparency.”
“I know there’s going to be a substantial transition cost,” Chappell said.
Waterhouse replied that information was in the city’s five-year financial plan and it is “all public information.”
In a follow-up press conference later that day, Chappell was asked if he had a concern about the costs and if he’s heard from constituents. He said there has been a lot of information through media and different sources, adding that he was looking for clarification and trying to share that with the public.
Also during the conference, Sunner addressed concerns about creating a new police service amid the Black Lives Matter movement, which has some calling to defund police forces.
Sunner said with everything going on locally, nationally and internationally with BLM, the Surrey Police Service presents a “good opportunity” to build a police service, not a force.
Meantime, the National Police Federation’s president released a statement Thursday morning ahead of the board meeting. Brian Sauvé said the lack of transparency, real costs and timing are the key issues for the meeting.
“After months of uncertainty perpetuated by Mayor McCallum’s evasive tactics, we expect the new Surrey Police Board to provide information on real and hidden financial and social costs of this expensive and secretive plan,” he said. “As the public body accountable to residents of Surrey on matters of policing, these issues are critical to residents of Surrey, and our 850 Members serving in Surrey.”
Councillor Linda Annis said in an emailed statement prior to the meeting that the police board is “no substitute for a referendum.”
“The transition budget tops $129 million, money we don’t have, and a police force that more and more residents don’t want,” Annis said.
“Board members can see the frustration right across the community in the lawn signs going up across the city and the nearly 50,000 signatures on the petition supporting the RCMP. To ignore the community is completely tone deaf and no way to start a city police force.”