Mayor Doug McCallum is insisting the public was consulted on his policing plan – and he says it was done during his election campaign.
This, as criticism mounts over the way he is developing his transition plan from RCMP to a municipal police force.
“We’ve been very clear, and we ran the campaign for literally three months and did a huge amount of public consulting,” McCallum told the Now-Leader on Tuesday.
“In fact, we’re probably elected, certainly I’m elected, because I said to the public if they elected me that I was going to change to our own police department on the first day that we had a council meeting. And we did that. We consider that, probably, consulting because we were very clear in the public that if you elect us, we’re going to change our police force from RCMP. So we’ve had that part of the public consulting.”
The mayor said the plan is “on track” to be finished and sent to the provincial government by the end of the month. Once that’s been done, McCallum said he intends to release the document to the public but said some “operational techniques” may be kept private.
After that, he said the city would embark on public engagement by way of meetings in every town centre, as well as a website.
McCallum said that consultation would “ask questions like, ‘What in your neighbourhood would you want the police to be addressing to keep your community safe?’”
But Safe Surrey Coalition Councillor Jack Hundial argued this doesn’t equate to proper consultation. Hundial wants the public to have a say prior to McCallum’s plan being finalized.
“We do consultation on a wide variety of projects smaller than this,” Hundial told the Now-Leader Monday. “TransLink is out doing consultation on transit, currently. Even a land use application has a public hearing component.”
While the councillor acknowledged McCallum was given “some clear indicators from the public” simply by being elected, Hundial said “from that time to now we still need to listen to the community.”
“Part of good governance is hearing the community throughout the process,” he added. “The public expects politicians to listen to them.”
Lone Surrey First Councillor Linda Annis also urged McCallum to “put the facts to the people before we take it to Victoria.”
“The reason why I wanted to do that is I think the residents of Surrey need to know how much it’s going to cost and what it’s going to look like and to make an informed decision if that’s the way they want to go,” Annis told the Now-Leader.
Hundial and Annis, who both have public safety backgrounds, are also frustrated at being left in the dark as the transition is being planned.
Hundial, a former Mountie, said he finds it curious he hasn’t had the opportunity to provide any input into the plan given his “public safety perspective.”
“I’m a little disappointed with that,” said Hundial, “because the constituents have elected me with the idea I’ll be able to bring my expertise of 25 years of policing.”
For her part, Annis said she’d like to see the plan and provide her input prior to it being sent to the provincial government but anticipated that “council wouldn’t be consulted with the plan, the plan will just be presented.”
Annis, who is also executive director of Metro Vancouver Crime Stoppers, said she would “absolutely” like to have a say.
“There’s a few of us that come with a public safety background. It would be good to get our perspectives on this,” she said. “We’re all here representing the citizens of Surrey and we should be able to at least provide input on the plan.”
But McCallum said the plan is in good hands.
Asked if Surrey councillors would have the opportunity to provide input into the plan prior to it being sent to the provincial government, McCallum replied, “Council voted on it. They voted to have Dr. Griffiths and Vancouver do the report. So we have left it up to Terry (Waterhouse) as our manager in the city to work with the Vancouver police force and Dr. Griffiths.”
He added that the report will be “given to council before we send it to the province.”
McCallum said he’s “not too involved” in the development of the plan but said “generally, the only comments I do get back are they’re basically on track to have the report done. They’re just finishing up. I would say it’s about 80 per cent finished as of today and they’re addressing all the issues that need to be addressed as far as what’s required by the province.
“I’m confident, and I’m actually pleased that we’re at this stage already, having basically only been elected four months ago.”
The mayor said it’s “an exciting time for our residents,” noting he still expects to hit his two-year timeline to have the force up and running and insists taxes won’t rise to pay for the transition.
“Certainly in my travels out in the community, people are looking forward to it, they’re very positive,” said McCallum. “In fact I get a lot of RCMP officers working in Surrey certainly, who say once we have it, are intending to switch over. There’s a lot of energy and very positive energy that we’re moving in that direction.”
It’s expected the City of Surrey will send its plan to the provincial government by April 30.
McCallum said he hopes to gain provincial approval in “three to four weeks” after that, noting the ministry has been “very co-operative” along the way, having “daily contact” with city staff.
A message from @SurreyRCMP's top cop today.
"Until the Province determines if it will approve the City’s plan, no determination can be made on the future of the RCMP in Surrey. In the meantime, we continue to serve you and the City of Surrey proudly." #SurreyBC pic.twitter.com/BBk94TMgP5
— Amy Marie Reid (@amyreid87) April 9, 2019
Meantime, in a message to residents on April 9, Surrey RCMP’s top cop Dwayne McDonald acknowledged “many of you are curious to know what is happening with the City of Surrey’s proposal to change to a municipal police force.”
“While the Surrey RCMP is not involved in the development of this proposal, it is our understanding that the City will be presenting their plan to the Province this spring,” McDonald wrote.
“Until the Province determines if it will approve the City’s plan, no determination can be made on the future of the RCMP in Surrey. In the meantime, we continue to serve you and the City of Surrey proudly. On behalf of our members and staff, I thank you for the appreciation you have shown us over the past six months. While it has not been an easy time for us, the support we have received from the public has certainly boosted our spirits.”