Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum has appointed only his Safe Surrey Coalition to his interim Police Transition Advisory Committee for the yet-to-be-approved shift from RCMP to a municipal force.
The criticism has been fierce, with former members of his team saying the move is an attempt to silent dissenting voices.
On Monday, McCallum appointed Councillors Doug Elford, Allison Patton, Laurie Guerra and Mandeep Nagra to the new committee. Previously, all members of council sat on the Public Safety Committee, which the mayor dissolved on July 15 in favour of this new one.
After the council meeting, McCallum ignored reporters’ attempts to speak to him. The next day, shortly before noon, the Mayor’s Office issued a release which included a statement from McCallum.
“While we await the decision of the provincial government, we will continue to work diligently on the creation of the Surrey Police Department,” said McCallum in the statement. “The goal is to have Surrey Police operating by April 2021, and the members I have appointed are collectively focused on ensuring that we are doing all that we can towards the achievement of that goal.”
The three former Safe Surrey councillors Brenda Locke, Jack Hundial and Steven Pettigrew, who split to sit as independents, were not appointed to the new committee, nor was lone Surrey First Councillor Linda Annis.
Hundial, a former police officer, told the Now-Leader he emailed the mayor asking to be on the committee.
“He didn’t get back to me on that.”
Despite the mayor’s decision, Hundial said “I’m going to keep advocating for the community, for the people that elected me and put me here. I’m certainly going to be outspoken, not a critic, but certainly highlighting gaps in the policing transition.”
He added: “You can block my comments out in chambers… but you can’t block out comments from (Public Safety) Minister Farnworth.”
Councillor Linda Annis said in a release Tuesday that the mayor’s decision is “another sign he’s stopped listening.”
“Shutting down the public safety committee was a poor decision because that committee includes every councillor and deals with so much more than just policing,” said Annis, who is the executive director of Metro Vancouver Crime Stoppers, in the release. “But, more than anything, this latest decision is a sad commentary on the state of our city hall and the Mayor’s office. Dissenting or different opinions are no longer welcome, and by only including his remaining Safe Surrey councillors on his advisory committee the Mayor is guaranteed to hear exactly what he wants to hear. But, it’s out-of-touch with our community and taxpayers and that has to concern our community.”
Annis said the city should “expect to feel their grip on power tighten even more” and accused the Safe Surrey Coalition of having a “complete disregard for other opinions or voices.”
For her part, Locke said she is “not surprised” at the mayor’s decision but that it should be “a concern to everyone that Hundial was not involved in that because he has more experience in them than all of them put together.”
Further, she said the public should be concerned about the mayor dissolving the Public Safety Committee last week, in favour of this new one.
Locke – who slammed the decision to dissolve the public safety committee last week – said Monday that memos, presentations to council and corporate reports “don’t cut it,” which is the avenue the mayor has stated all public safety matters will now come to council.
Last week, Locke told the Now-Leader this is “typical of the way the mayor manages council as chair” due to what she described as a “lack of transparency and consultation.” Locke said she was “blind-sided” by the announcement and that she “doesn’t think this is in the best interest of public safety for Surrey.”
“This pretty much sums up what we have been working with for the last eight months. It’s constantly a one-man show,” Locke added.
McCallum says the new policing transition committee will be in place for a period of three to six months, and its mandate will be “to support the policing transition process leading up to the establishment of the police board.”
The City of Surrey has sent the provincial government its 189-page Policing Transition Report for review, but there has been no word of the plan being approved.