It’s a green light for the Surrey Police Department.
The Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General has approved the City of Surrey’s municipal police force, according to a joint statement from Minister Mike Farnworth and Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum Thursday (Aug. 22).
It says the minister gave the approval required to establish Surrey’s municipal police department.
“To ensure all key issues are addressed and all complex details are in place to facilitate an orderly transition, a joint project team has been struck,” the statement says. “The joint transition committee, chaired by the Hon. Wally Oppal, will work expeditiously to provide advice to the Director of Police Services through to the Solicitor General relating to the establishment of Surrey’s municipal police department.”
During a news conference, Farnworth said the transition is an “iterative process that requires substantial work that will proceed in phases.”
“As this work progresses, and prior to any decision being made on any future phases of the process, public safety will remain a priority. It is essential that adequate and effective policing is maintained throughout the transition and beyond.”
He said the joint committee will “deal with every single question” that relates to the policing transition. The committee, Farnworth said, “will work to ensure all key issues are addressed and all complete details are considered in the transition plan.”
Farnworth said while there has been “a lot of good work done” by provincial and municipal staff,” there is “a lot more work to be done.”
Asked if he thinks the transition will be completed by 2021, Farnworth said “that’s the work that the committee has to undertake.”
McCallum spoke to media Thursday afternoon at city hall. Click HERE for more on his press conference.
Lone Surrey First Councillor Linda Annis – who had called for a referendum on the transition – issued a statement after the announcement saying she is “disappointed that the province hasn’t provided an opportunity for Surrey taxpayers to have their say.”
“I am hopeful the task force that has been set up will drill down into the details of the proposed new police department and will provide some mechanism for Surrey voters and taxpayers to be heard in a serious way, something that has been missing so far,” the statement read, adding Annis has “always been important to me that the citizens of Surrey have their say in any move from the RCMP to a municipal force.”
Wow I have no words right now! Absolutely shocked. https://t.co/X8COKyDuIM
— AR (@mysteriousrai) August 22, 2019
Thanks for the memories Surrey but I'm out of here.
— 1 Tall Cop (@610Mike) August 22, 2019
My thoughts written for me.
I'm completely astonished this was given the green-light. Such a short-sighted and detrimental decision void of process and concern for the people that live here. #bcpoli #Surrey @mikefarnworthbc @bcndp https://t.co/OBnSX8wTGj
— Cindy Dalglish (@CindyDalglish) August 22, 2019
Councillor Brenda Locke – who split from the mayor’s Safe Surrey Coalition earlier this year over his so-called “my-way-or-the-highway approach” – said she figured the approval “was bound to happen.”
“Now it gets real. This is where the rubber hits the road,” she told the Now-Leader. “Now, the people who wrote the report have to fully disclose what they mean. The public has to know what the numbers are. This will now create that place where they can really talk about what the costs are going to look like to the citizens and residents of Surrey. You can’t tell right now.”
Locke said McCallum and the Vancouver Police Department, which helped Surrey develop its transition plan, “are going to have to defend the report they’ve written, because they’ve chosen to be silent until now.”
According to Locke, the “cost implications are going to become very real, very soon.”
Locke also said she hopes the provincial government will “demand meaningful consultation,” saying the consultation that’s gone on thus far “can’t be taken seriously.”
Joint statement from McCallum/Farnworth on the approval of a Surrey police force.
Statement says "all key issues are addressed" but several councillors take issue with much of the report.
— Amy Marie Reid (@amyreid87) August 22, 2019
With provincial approval, McCallum previously said “the next step is to form Surrey Police Board and Surrey’s Police Board will be the governing body of Surrey Police and one of their first responsibilities will be to select a new Surrey Police commander.”
Back in May, McCallum said in his 2019 State of the City Address that Surrey municipal police officers would be “patrolling our streets by July 2020.”
The City of Surrey showcased a police cruiser prototype outside city hall on May 7, before the transition plan was approved.
The city’s transition plan has been slammed by several city councillors, some who used to sit on McCallum’s slate until they split over concerns.
Most recently, Councillor Brenda Locke slammed the proposed policing transition plan saying it would cut the current Surrey RCMP Police Mental Health and Outreach Team in half, from 20 to 11.
Prior to that, in mid-June, Locke criticized the report for reducing police officers for Sophie’s Place’s Child and Youth Abuse Team, saying it “fails abused children” by reducing the minimum number of officers based there from 11 to seven.
Councillors Jack Hundial and Steven Pettigrew have also split from the slate, attributing their departures to what they describe as a lack of transparency and consultation on council and with the public.
Hundial split after the mayor dissolved the city’s Public Safety Committee – which all of council sat on – in favour of his new Interim Police Transition Committee for the force before it was approved.
In early August, Hundial issued a press release slamming the plan for only intending to have 80 per cent of its authorized strength on day one of operations, and for having significantly fewer supervisory personnel.
“In my experience as a police officer of 25 years and as a front-line police supervisor in Surrey, less supervision leads to increased taxpayer liability and less effective public safety.”
The City of Surrey’s proposed transition plan to convert from RCMP states the force will “go live” on April 1, 2021 and its operating costs will be $192.5 million that year.
That’s a 10.9 per cent increase from the $173.6 million the city projects the RCMP would cost that year. The report states that a unionization drive is underway within the RCMP and if achieved, “the gap between the cost of the Surrey RCMP and the cost of the Surrey PD would be eliminated.”
There are also an estimated $39.2 million in start-up costs.
While the proposed municipal force would have fewer officers, the report says it would have more staff overall.
Currently, Surrey RCMP has 843 members although the city report says 51 of those positions are vacant, meaning a “funded strength” of 792 officers. There are also 302 City of Surrey employees supporting the RCMP.
Surrey RCMP, however, says they don’t have 51 vacant positions but that those positions are created to cover temporary vacancies, when needed, such as maternity or sick leaves.
“It is important to note that we currently have a full complement of police officers at Surrey Detachment,” Surrey RCMP said in an emailed statement after the report’s release.
The transition report suggests a new municipal force in Surrey would have 805 police officers, 325 civilian positions and 20 Community Safety Personnel.
At council’s inaugural meeting on Nov. 5, 2018 it served notice to the provincial and federal governments that Surrey is ending its contract with the RCMP – which has policed these parts since May 1, 1951 – to set up its own force. Dr. Terry Waterhouse, who has served as Surrey’s general manager of public safety, was appointed by Mayor Doug McCallum to oversee the process.
-With files from Amy Reid and Tom Zytaruk