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Surrey's police transition has been green-lit, but are residents on board?

Last Updated Aug 23, 2019 at 10:13 am PST

FILE - The city says public consultations held to gauge support for the police transition show 93 per cent of people in Surrey are ready to go ahead. (Source: Twitter/@CityofSurrey)
Summary

Some people in Surrey say they're looking forward to having their own municipal police force

The province announced on Thursday that it had green lit Surrey's plan to do away with the RCMP

Some residents have still expressed concerns about the cost of the transition, possible loss of experience

SURREY (NEWS 1130) – It’s the news Surrey’s mayor has been waiting for — the province has officially green lit the city’s police transition away from the RCMP, but is that really what the residents of the community want?

It appears not everyone is against the idea of scrapping the RCMP.

For many who can’t wait for a municipal force, it, in part, comes down to the claim that the Surrey RCMP takes too long to respond to calls. They are of the mind that a Surrey police force will be faster.

“I feel like the RCMP don’t do nothing about people on the streets and stuff like that, like road range — that’s what bothers me the most,” one resident told NEWS 1130. “Police don’t do nothing about it, and it’s getting ridiculous. The RCMP, I think, they don’t care.”

While he doesn’t know for sure if a municipal force will change much, he says he’s hopeful. Meantime, others agree it’s time to move on from the RCMP in Surrey.

“I think it’s a good idea,” Kartik, a local, said. “If we call the RCMP, they’re too busy with their work. They’re not able to come at the right time.”

Related video: B.C. approves Surrey Police force

He, too, is hopeful the transition will mean positive change in the community.

Mayor Doug McCallum has said the new force will only cost 11 per cent more than the existing RCMP contract, and that it would be manageable for taxpayers. He has insisted from the start that a municipal force would offer the best protection.

A higher cost, however, doesn’t seem to be an issue for all residents.

“Surrey is getting its own police, so I think the cost will be higher. People will have to bear it,” Kartik said. “It’s ok.”

“Part of me thinks it’ll make it a little bit easier if we have our own community police force, because hopefully they’ll be able to make better connections with the community itself,” another resident said.

However, there are concerns about the possible loss of experience with the Surrey RCMP, as well as how much it’ll cost for the transition to take place.

How much the switch will cost is also among the concerns.

“That’s a lot of money to replace them, right?” Surrey resident Roger said.

Others are skeptical, and believe the move won’t be as good as it’s cracked up to be.

“There’s no way for them to be proactive in the prevention of crime,” another named Remo, said. “Because they can’t do nothing to the person who hasn’t committed anything.”

Critics have also taken issue with the notion that a municipal force will cost more, but put fewer officers on the ground.

Councillors Linda Annis, Jack Hundial, Steven Pettigrew, and Brenda Locke are among the city councillors who have raised their concerns about what a municipal force would mean for residents, including the issue of the number of officers.

The transition from the RCMP to a Surrey city force will be a team effort, according to the province’s solicitor general, who added on Thursday that the transition would be overseen by a committee chaired by former Attorney General and retired justice Wally Oppal.

The goal is to have a municipal police force in place in Surrey by April 2021. Whether the transition can be completed by that date will be determined by the newly established committee.

However, Oppal has admitted it’s too early to talk about timelines because the team’s priority is making sure Surrey’s civic force follows established rules and guidelines.

“Surrey adopting their own police force is going to be a major transition, and this is not easy. It’s complex,” he said. “My job is to head the transition team in order to see that the move from the RCMP to a municipal police force is done in a timely way and is done in accordance with The Police Act.”

-With files from Monika Gul, Liza Yuzda, Martin MacMahon, and Marcella Bernardo

Editor’s Note: NEWS 1130 has removed an incorrect reference to what the estimated cost for the new police department would be.