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Out with the RCMP, in with the Surrey Police Department

FILE - A Surrey Police cruiser sits outside the Cloverdale Recreation Centre during the first open house about creating an independent police force in Surrey. (Marcella Bernardo, NEWS 1130)

SURREY (NEWS 1130) – The City of Surrey’s plan to transition from the RCMP to a municipal police force has received its fair share of praise and criticism.

If approved, the plan will see the community end up with fewer officers, all at a higher cost than the current situation with the RCMP.

However, the city’s mayor has said the price tag shouldn’t be a surprise to people, and that a municipal force is just what locals want.

“Our people feel unsafe out there, and they want our own Surrey police force,” said Doug McCallum.

Some, like City Councillor Linda Annis, aren’t confident the transition plan will work, and are calling for a referendum on switching forces.

“We need more officers, officers cost money, and we can’t do it by reducing the number of officers and increasing the number of employees,” she said.

This week on Ask The Chief, NEWS 1130’s Tim James is breaking down the details of the plan with Retired Delta Police Chief Jim Cessford. Cessford previously met one-on-one with Mayor McCallum to offer advice on the transition. He also has experience with policing transitions, having overseen the Tsawwassen First Nation switching from RCMP to the Delta Police Department.

Is this a good plan?

“There could be some discussion about the costs, but apart from that, I think it’s pretty straight forward and complete.”

Operating costs of $192.5 million are projected for 2021 — what do you think?

“I don’t think the costs are going to be prohibitive. I think the increase is pretty close to being correct.”

Will 805 officers be enough for Surrey?

“Personally, I like to see a ratio of one police officer for every 600 citizens. So, I think the 805 might be a little short, but I’m sure they’ll get that figuered out and they’ll put a proper number of boots on the ground.”

The plan includes 20 Community Safety Personnel — are these peace officers needed?

“To have that [program] is a great idea. It’s also a training ground for young people who may ultimately become police officers within the city.”

How many Surrey RCMP officers do you expect to transfer to Surrey Police?

“I would be guessing, but I’ve heard anywhere from 45%-60%.”

If you were approached, would you consider the role as Surrey Police Chief?

“There’s a lot of really top notch people out there. But, if I was asked, I would certainly consider.”

Listen to the full interview with Retired Delta Police Chief Jim Cessford: