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Province gives Surrey police transition final approval

Last Updated Feb 27, 2020 at 10:34 pm PDT

Summary

B.C.'s public safety minister has given Surrey's police transition final approval

The approval means the city is now able to create a police board that will govern the municipal force

Surrey's mayor says the city aims to have its new police force up and running by April of 2021

SURREY (NEWS 1130) – Surrey’s mayor has announced the city’s move away from the RCMP and to a municipal force has received the final stamp of approval from the provincial government.

“We’ve moved from a unanimous council motion to full reality on our promise to the citizens of Surrey far quicker than even I thought possible,” Doug McCallum said. “With Minister Farnworth’s final approval to establish the Surrey Police Board, today marks day one for the Surrey Police Department.”

McCallum said the hope is to have the new municipal force take over in April 2021 — in just more than a year.

The announcement came just a day after the man in charge of the transition committee revealed few details in a report on the switch, which did not outline how much the overall move would cost taxpayers.

“The time has come, and some would say it’s been long overdue, for Surrey to have a police force of its own where accountability begins and stays within our city,” McCallum said, despite vocal opposition by many in the community — as well as on council — to the switch.

In a statement, the province said Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth was confident the “key aspects of the transition plan that required more detail have been thoroughly considered,” after having reviewed the Provincial Municipal Policing Transition Study Committee’s report, along with recommendations made by the director of police services.

His approval now means the city is able to create a Surrey police board, which will be responsible for creating and overseeing the new force.

Farnworth said later that it’s up to the city, not the province, to decide what kind of police force it wants.

“There are pieces of legislation that underline the whole process, which is that the City of Surrey is responsible for policing,” he added. “It’s laid out in the Police Act.”

The police board will employ Surrey police officers and employees, provide financial oversight for the police department, create policies and direction for the municipal force, as well as manage service.

“Local responsibility, priorities and oversight will reside within the Surrey Police Board, which will be comprised of our most qualified citizens,” McCallum told reporters Thursday. “City staff will be working diligently with the Province to put the Surrey Police Board in place. I look forward to beginning the work with my fellow Board members to bring Surrey Police to full operational strength.”

The approval comes just hours after two city councillors, who are against the police transition, cited issues with the then-proposed transition, saying it was still unclear how much the move to scrap the RCMP would cost taxpayers.

Coun. Steven Pettigrew, who is opposed to the switch, is upset he wasn’t able to make his case directly to the province.

“Personally, I’m really, very disappointed in the province,” Pettigrew said following provincial approval of the plan.

“They failed in their duty. They failed in their duty to listen to the people of Surrey. It’s just my personal opinion, but I’m of the opinion, that the NDP, it’s time for them to go. It’s time for them to leave the city of Surrey. They do not represent the wishes of the people, and they’ve lost their chance to remain here,” he added.

Pettigrew said she spent six weeks trying to get a hold of the premier and was ignored.

“I spent several weeks trying to get a hold of the [public safety] minister, he ignored me. I did my due diligence of trying to reach out for them, they weren’t interested.”

Coun. Linda Annis, also opposed to the switch, said questions about the cost of the transition remain.

“I’m also very concerned that $129.6-million is being spent on the transition,” Annis said at City Hall. “This is money that could be going into rec centres, more police officers, more firefighters. It’s not good utilization of taxpayers’ money. I’m also very concerned about the amount of budget. We don’t know what we’re getting and we don’t know how much it’s going to cost.”