Former Surrey mayor Bob Bose is calling on Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth to intervene in the city’s police staffing level situation now that city council has approved its 2020 budget containing a hiring freeze on police and firefighters, saying it’s a “crisis issue in terms of accountability.”
“The increase in staff has been frozen for at least two budget cycles,” Bose noted. “People who know about these things have estimated Surrey’s shortfall is somewhere between 200 and 300 officers as we stand.
“The provincial review is ongoing; there was nothing to be addressed in the 2020 budget until the budget was passed, and it has been passed, ostensibly,” said Bose, who was Surrey’s mayor from 1988 until 1996.
“Now it is clearly time for Mike Farnworth, the solicitor general, to intervene before things get even worse by ordering the city to provide the services that are clearly needed.”
While Surrey has set a hiring freeze in place, Vancouver city council has decided to hire 25 new police officers in the new year, in a budget that includes a seven per cent hike in property taxes. Thirty more firefighters will also be hired.
Moreover, the Langley RCMP is asking the Township to hire 15 more Mounties.
Surrey Board of Trade CEO Anita Huberman said Farnworth refused to intervene in Surrey’s policing situation, after the board asked him to investigate if this city has an adequate level of policing.
“I’ve read the Police Act, and in particular that section which gives the solicitor general the authority to order proper levels of service for public safety,” Bose said.
“Not only has he the authority to do it, he in fact – and I emphasize this – has a responsibility to do it.”
Meantime Ivan Scott, the founder of the Keep the RCMP in Surrey campaign, notes Farnworth has waded into the City of Victoria’s dispute between its city council and police department over the hiring of more officers.
Surrey’s population exceeds Victoria’s by roughly 230,000, Scott said, “and yet Minster Farnworth clearly feels very comfortable ordering the City of Victoria to hire more police officers whilst at the same time ignoring many similar requests that the City of Surrey do the same for our community, as we believe that he is obliged to do under the BC Police Act.
“This,” Scott said, “indicates to us of one rule by the Solicitor General for the Capital City of Victoria and the polar opposite one for our very substantially more populated City of Surrey.”
Surrey RCMP’s outgoing officer in charge, Assistant Commissioner Dwayne McDonald, recently warned that Surrey council’s decision not to hire more police officers for 2020 – and for the second year in a row – will have a “detrimental effect” on policing, “on the health and wellness of our members and municipal support staff,” and will force the detachment to review its policing service.
This appeared to fly in the face of what Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum told reporters one day before, that “both our police chief and our fire chief have indicated that with this level, they can maintain the safety of our community.”
During a press conference on Dec. 12, to introduce Surrey RCMP’s incoming boss, Chief Superintended Brian Edwards, McDonald said that “my recall of that conversation is that we would do our utmost to maintain community and public safety.
“But I stand by the comments that I made previously that without sufficient resources to combat all the emerging issues in this city – the growing population and the complexities of policing a developing city – at some point tough choices have to be made and that could have an impact on the public safety initiatives or service delivery models moving forward,” McDonald said.
McDonald noted that “you can only do so much with the resources that you’re given.”