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Surrey mayor wants council to make ‘final and informed’ decision on policing transition this month

‘We will not be pressured or bullied into making a hasty one,’ Mayor Brenda Locke says
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth and Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke. (File photos)

Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke says her “goal” is for city staff to put before council this month a comprehensive corporate report so it can make a “final and informed decision” on the policing transition.

“My goal is to have this accomplished this month,” Locke said at council’s Monday night meeting. She remarked it’s unfortunate due diligence “was not permitted to be done by the last mayor and his council at the beginning of the process.”

There is one more council meeting scheduled for this month, on June 19.

“This is not just an issue for today, this is a generational decision that will impact future generations. I would like to thank the good work of the men and women working to serve and protect this city every day under these trying circumstances over the past four and a half years,” Locke said.

The issue on whether the city should be policed by the Surrey RCMP or Surrey Police Service grew even more turbulent last week after B.C.’s Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth sent a pointed letter to the mayor and council pressing them to make a final decision, which Locke argues is the city’s alone to make.

Locke noted that in December council in “a democratic and open vote” decided to retain the Surrey RCMP as the city’s police of jurisdiction and it’s council’s “democratic responsibility, right and authority to determine our choice of policing, not the provincial government. The premier, solicitor general and the deputy minister have all confirmed that fact on a number of occasions.

“Over the past two weeks there has been inaccurate and misleading statements made to undermine, interrupt and create a public debate in an effort to interfere and force Surrey to continue down a costly, unproven and uncertain policing path,” she charged. “For some on this council to describe this work as a stall is deliberately disingenuous and worst, for some on this council to suggest that we usurp or waive our dutiful responsibility as elected officials of this city is quite frankly shameful.”

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Farnworth wrote he is “gravely concerned” council doesn’t have the information it needs to make an informed decision as not all of council has signed a confidentiality agreement to receive an unredacted copy of the report from the director of B.C. police services.

“It is critical that all of council understands the full factual context of this decision, as well as its implications, to ensure adequate and effective policing in Surrey,” he warned. Portions of the director’s report are blacked out due to sensitive policing information about the RCMP, SPS and federal government. “The safeguarding of this sensitive information is paramount to public safety,” Farnworth said.

The minister wants council to inform him once all of council has signed a non-disclosure agreement. Contrary to Locke’s claim it’s unusual for a civic government to be required to sign a confidentiality agreement imposed by a higher level of government, Farnworth claims they are often used to support the sharing of confidential and sensitive information “with a variety of parties, including local governments, especially when other entities own that information.”

He reiterated in his letter that the provincial government will provide up to $150 million to help with the transition to Surrey Police Services but “if the City of Surrey chooses to retain the RCMP as its service provider, the city will be fully responsible for the fiscal, operational, and all other consequences of that decision, without monetary support from the province.”

Locke also issued a statement last Friday indicating she wasn’t surprised by Farnworth’s letter as “throughout this whole process he has avoided direct conversations with me and has once again chosen to do so.

“Everyone is frustrated at the time this has taken, but transparency and public safety are paramount to the people of Surrey. The Province has taken over five months to arrive at their recommendations and we are now expected to make a decision in a few weeks?”

Locke said Surrey council will make “an informed and responsible decision, but we will not be pressured or bullied into making a hasty one.

“The City has factored out the costs for retaining the Surrey RCMP and we are confident in our numbers. The $150 million carrot the solicitor general is dangling before the city only if it chooses the Surrey Police Service does not address the true costs for setting up a new police force. I suggest the province can make better use of this money to address the infrastructure shortfall in Surrey, such as much-needed new schools or a new hospital.”

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