Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum insisted repeatedly that the Surrey Police Service, to replace the RCMP, is “a done deal.”
This was during Surrey council debate Monday night concerning six corporate reports dealing with the controversial policing transition which once again showcased how deeply fractured city council is on this issue, on the eve of Tuesday morning’s second Surrey Police Board Meeting.
McCallum said the “vast majority” of people he meets in Surrey say they are excited about the new police force. “It’s overwhelming support in our community for our new police force,” he said. “In fact they’re so excited, they can’t wait to have it come here.”
“There is very huge excitement to see it come forward,” he said.
Councillor Brenda Locke was aghast.
“I must be travelling in much different circles than you,” she told McCallum. “I have not run into people that are happy at all, in fact quite the contrary.”
Locke questioned how 6,000 Keep the RCMP in Surrey signs on Surrey’s lawns “would equate in anybody’s mind” to acceptance of the transition process.
“To me, the process has failed from the beginning. It has been a harmful process, it has been divisive in our city. I think the plan was very poorly thought out,” she said. “The transition I think will go down in the textbooks for poly-sci students of what not to do with change management for local government.”
“This is not supported by the citizens of Surrey,” she said. “A flawed process that isn’t transparent is going to have a flawed outcome and I think that’s where we are today.”
Councillor Stephen Pettigrew noted that the Surrey Light Rail project championed by the previous council was also a “done deal,” until it was not. “One of my big concerns is that the same thing is going to happen here. We’re spending so much time, staff time, and so many millions of dollars into this transition and it’s going to fail.”
Councillor Linda Annis said Surrey residents “deserve to be consulted through this process. After all, they are the taxpayers who will be paying for this transition.”
Councillors Alison Patton and Laurie Guerra voiced their support. “I think change is scary for a lot of people,” Patton said. “I just want to say from a positive vote that this is one of the best days for the City of Surrey and I’m really excited about it.”
Guerra said she’s always supported “from the get-go the formation of our own Surrey Police Service and I’m thrilled to be supporting it still.”
Meantime, the board on Tuesday considered these same six reports related to establishing the Surrey Police Service, which were passed by council on a five-to-four vote. They include a framework for critical decisions, communicating the city’s priorities related to its goals and objectives for policing, interim financial procedures, approval of delegations, a freedom of information overview, and association memberships.
A police chief has yet to be hired. McCallum said recruitment is finished and “we will be going into the interview process very shortly.”
Terry Waterhouse, general manager of the policing transition, noted that 11,103 surveys were completed following “extensive public engagement” throughout the city and 90 per cent of respondents agreed with the proposition “I want a police department that is locally led.”
Board member Harley Chappell noted that of the city’s 23 community “engagements” staged, all of the information he received concerning the policing transition was through the media. “I know Semiahmoo and I know Katzie were not privvy to those conversations.
“That consultation still needs to happen,” he said.
“One suggestion or thought is to have, I know that we talked about this before, is the key points, key decisions, just a small snapshot of how we’ve gotten this far, where we’re at,” Chappell said. “I think that’s one of the struggles that we have.”
Board member Elizabeth Model echoed that.
Board member Manav Gill asked Waterhouse if the board could get a breakdown of what has already been spent on the policing transition in 2020.
“All of the data, all the background information that we have, we would foresee providing to the finance committee and working with the finance committee on all of that information,” he replied. “And that would certainly include the breakdown of expenditures to date, in 2020.”
The board heard no delegations. Melissa Granum, its executive director, said the board does not play a role in city council decisions. “Any individual or groups whose position it is that the RCMP should remain the city’s police service is, again, not within the scope of the board.” Same goes for delegations related to a referendum, she said. “Those individuals should also approach city council.”
The board adopted a recommendation that any delegate wishing to address it in an open session “may do so by making a written request to the Executive Director at least seven days in advance of the Board meeting, specifying the topic on which the Delegate wishes to speak.”
As for Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy requests, Granum noted all City of Surrey records are controlled by city hall but when a chief constable is hired the new police force “will also be separate and distinct and have its own obligations under the FOIPPA.”
Before heading into a closed session, the board voted to join the Canadian Association of Police Governance and the BC Association of Police Boards. “This would benefit the board to interact with other police governance bodies and individuals who have had many years of experience both in B.C. and across Canada,” Granum explained.
The Surrey Police Service is expected to have 805 police officers, 325 civilian employees,and 20 community safety personnel who will take on lower priority, less risky, and less complex duties in order to” better leverage” frontline officers, All told, 84 per cent of the officers will be constables.
Surrey RCMP, in comparison, has 1,145 employees, 843 of which are police officers.
At Surrey council’s inaugural meeting on Nov. 5th, 2018 it served notice to the provincial and federal governments it is ending its contract with the RCMP – which has policed these parts since May 1, 1951 – to set up its own force. The target date for the Surrey Police Service to take over from the Surrey RCMP is next April.