Solicitor General Mike Farnworth says he’s “under no illusions” that many Surrey residents do not want to see the Surrey RCMP replaced with a city police force but acknowledged that the City of Surrey has the right and the authority to say it wants to move to a new policing model.
Asked if he’s concerned about any political fallout for the NDP for approving the transition, Farnworth had this to say.
“Look, I fully understand that whenever an issue like this emerges and that you have to deal with, that there are strong views on both sides of the issue. I’m under no illusion about that, and I fully respect that,” he told the Now-Leader. “The key elements in guiding the decision is one, my statutory responsibility to ensure that a transition plan provides safe and effective policing, but also to understand and to recognize that there are pieces of legislation underlying the whole process, which is the City of Surrey is responsible for policing.
“It’s laid out in the Police Act. They are the ones who get to decide what kind of model they want,” he said.
Farnworth noted that “aligned with that legislation is the contract that is currently in place” and that contract allows the City of Surrey to say it wants to change its policing model, and how to go about doing it, which is to give two years notice.
“The City of Surrey is democratically elected, they had the motion, they took it to council, they have given the province the notice and it is on that basis that the City of Surrey has the right and the authority to say ‘We want to move to a new policing model.’”
Meantime, Farnworth said in a teleconference call with reporters on Thursday that public safety is always the “number one priority” and that he wants the “extremely comprehensive and thorough” transition report released to the public “as soon as possible.
“There is some issues in terms of information that is of a sensitive nature, but my expectation right now is I’m looking at a week this coming Tuesday to have that report released,” he said. “Minus some sensitive information.”
“It outlines, in eleven chapters, exactly what has to happen.”
Farnworth noted the transition costs will be borne by the City of Surrey.
“We have been clear about this right from the very beginning. In fact the City of Surrey has put in place a five-year, in their budget, transition costs,” he said. “The decision is Surrey’s, and those costs are borne by Surrey, and the Police Act and the police contract allow for them to make that decision.
“My job is to ensure that a transition is done properly,” Farnworth said, “and ensure safe and effective policing.”