Provincial Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said Thursday that Surrey RCMP Assistant Commissioner Dwayne McDonald’s point of view, expressed following council approving the city’s 2020 budget with no plan to hire more police officers, should be heeded by everybody.
“Surrey has an excellent police force in the city, they work extremely hard,” Farnworth said during a press scrum in Surrey on Thursday. “I understand the issue that Surrey is dealing with, that they have indicated that they want to move to a municipal force. As I’ve said, those issues are best dealt with at this point, in terms of additional members, by the city of Surrey and the detachment. Clearly the detachment commander is stating a point of view and obviously, you know, I think everyone should take that seriously.”
Surrey RCMP’s officer in charge issued a statement on Tuesday that Surrey’s budget approved Monday night will have a “detrimental effect” on policing “and on the health and wellness of our members and municipal support staff.”
McDonald also said the disparity between resources and calls for service “means we will have to review the services we provide. Unfortunately, this may necessitate the redeployment of personnel from proactive and community based programs, which we know have a positive impact on crime prevention, to our essential service, frontline policing.”
Asked what kind of feedback he’s receiving from Surrey residents on the city’s transitioning from the RCMP to its own city police force, Farnworth acknowledged the public is divided on it.
“I know this is an issue that has support on both sides of the question and that’s one of the reasons why, in my role as Solicitor General, who has the statutory authority in terms of ensuring a proper transition plan is in place, that the work Wally Oppal, former Supreme Court justice on the committee he is chairing with experts from both municipal policing and the RCMP on it, as well as local government, are doing their work that needs to be done and I am looking forward to receiving the report when it is finished,” Farnworth said.
Meantime, Surrey Liberal MP Ken Hardie this week called for a referendum on the police transition issue, and Surrey Board of Trade CEO Anita Huberman sent a letter to Farnworth asking that he and the Policing and Security Branch “investigate whether Surrey has an adequate level of policing.”
“What is important to me is the statutory obligations I have as the Solicitor General,” Farnworth replied, when he was asked about this. “They are guided by both the contract with the RCMP the City of Surrey has, and the Police Act. That’s my responsibility, my role and it’s those steps in both of those pieces of legislation and the contract that I follow.”
More from Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth on Surrey's plan to swap out the RCMP for a city police force pic.twitter.com/90dlNPaUhR— Tom Zytaruk (@tomzytaruk) December 5, 2019
On Monday, Mayor Doug McCallum told reporters the transition committee’s report “should be done and handed to the minister around Dec. 11.”
This is what Farnworth had to say about that: “What I can tell you is the committee has been working very hard. I have been pleased by the reports I have received in terms of how work is progressing and how the committee is functioning and so when I receive the report I will review it, my ministry will review it and I’m looking forward to receiving it.”