Now the shoe is on the other foot as Surrey’s acrimonious policing transition goes from cancelling the RCMP to building the Surrey Police Service, then retaining the RCMP, and now back to moving forward with the SPS.
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth’s “final decision” on Surrey proceeding with the SPS instead of sticking with the RCMP as its police of jurisdiction was arrived at, Farnworth said Wednesday, because the City of Surrey could not meet mandatory requirements imposed by his ministry. The provincial government has appointed a Strategic Implementation Advisor, Jessica McDonald, to help facilitate the transition process.
“In this role, she will aid parties in meeting timelines, facilitate dispute resolution, and ensure effective communication and completion of the transition to the Surrey Police Service,” a government bulletin reads.
While Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke maintains a deafening silence on what the city’s next move will be, stating only “in the coming days, I will be meeting with my council colleagues and City Staff to explore our options,” the RCMP and National Police Federation question how the Surrey Police Service build-up will now unfold.
Deputy Commissioner Dwayne McDonald, Commanding Officer of the BC RCMP noted that “this continues to be an unprecedented and complex process that will require time to ensure that the proper legal agreements and framework for a change of command plan, human resource strategy, and demobilization plan are completed.”
McDonald, who was officer-in-charge of the Surrey RCMP prior to Assistant Commissioner Brian Edwards taking the helm, added that the RCMP “will be seeking clarity and specifics from the city, province and federal government, along with the newly appointed Strategic Implementation Advisor, on the path forward.
“Our focus since the very beginning of the transition has been to ensure that public safety is not compromised. That focus will not change. Moving forward the stability in the delivery of police services and the retention of our members will be at the forefront of all planning.”
The NPF, meantime, called for “timeline certainty and respect for RCMP member careers” in a press release it issued Wednesday.
Brian Sauvé, president of the NPF – which represents roughy 20,000 Mounties – said the transition process has “always been about politics over facts and evidence. Our members have been living and working in uncertainty since late 2018 and have been stabilizing a fledgling police service since July 2020. There is still no end in sight.
“Pending the City of Surrey’s response to this decision, we call on the Premier and the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General to prepare an expeditious transition plan that includes a clear and imminent end date for the Surrey RCMP,” Sauvé said, adding that the plan mustn’t prioritize SPS re-staffing “at the expense of RCMP vacancies Canada-wide.”
Sauvé also called on McDonald to make sure HR plans are drawn up for each Surrey Mountie that will reflect their individual “career aspirations and geographic postings of choice, which may be anywhere in Canada. Their dedication and diligence throughout this protracted exercise has been nothing short of professional, and it deserves our utmost support and respect.”
During a media briefing prior to Farnworth announcing his decision Wednesday, senior bureaucrats in the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General told reporters the SPS has to date hired almost 400 police officers and support staff, including 39 new recruits, and it’s expected the transition could take from 18 months to three years to complete.
Farnworth echoed that, after making his announcement Wednesday.
“I think it will probably take up to three years to do, the full total transition,” he said. “The move to a police of jurisdiction will probably happen sooner. What we have to ensure is things take place in an orderly fashion.”
Chief Constable Norm Lipinksi, of the SPS, figures the SPS could be Surrey’s police of jurisdiction within a year.
“The more efficient and effective we can be in completing this transition in a timely fashion, the more fiscally responsible this project will be for Surrey,” Lipinski said.
Meanwhile, Surrey Councillor Linda Annis is calling for a new provincial police training academy and “centre of excellence” to be built in Surrey.
“Now that the decision has been made to move forward with the Surrey Police Service, it makes good sense to jump in with both feet and push for a police training academy and centre of policing excellence right here in Surrey,” she said.