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B.C. announces decision on Surrey police transition, recommends SPS


The B.C. government is recommending that Surrey continue the transition to a municipal police force, citing concerns about the local RCMP detachment's ability to quickly rehire officers if it remains the police of jurisdiction in the city.

The recommendation is not binding on the city council, however, and just hours after it was announced, Mayor Brenda Locke committed to keeping the RCMP.

"The B.C. Police Act states clearly: The choice of police is under the purview of the municipality," Locke told reporters at a news conference after the B.C. government announced its recommendation.

"Council made that decision. We made it five months ago. And our decision has not changed."

According to the province, the city's decision to continue down that path will not have financial support from the provincial government, and will be subject to several binding conditions to ensure adequate levels of policing are maintained.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth announced the province's recommendation at a news conference Friday morning, ending one chapter in a saga that has now been ongoing for nearly half a decade, and beginning another.

Farnworth described the decision as "one of the most difficult" he has had to make as B.C.'s solicitor general, and he stressed that the recommendation that Surrey continue transitioning away from the RCMP does not reflect a lack of support for the RCMP in the province.

"My support for the RCMP in this province is unwavering," Farnworth said. "RCMP officers on the ground across British Columbia protect our communities each and every day."

The transition decision was based on a report by the province's director of police services, Glen Lewis, who considered submissions from the city, the RCMP and the Surrey Police Service in compiling the report. 

Lewis determined that continuing with the transition would be the best way to achieve public safety province-wide.

There are currently approximately 1,500 RCMP vacancies in B.C., though Mounties clarified Friday afternoon that roughly two-thirds of that total are "soft vacancies," meaning positions that are filled, but the employee in the role is on leave for one reason or another.

The report concluded that submissions from the city and the RCMP relied too heavily on SPS officers being willing to switch over to working for the Surrey RCMP.

Prioritizing restaffing of Surrey RCMP would exacerbate hiring challenges faced by municipalities and Indigenous communities across the province, the report notes, adding that filling RCMP vacancies is the responsibility of the federal government.

"Everyone deserves to be safe in their community and all British Columbians deserve secure, stable policing they can count on," said Farnworth in a news release Friday.

"The people of Surrey are very frustrated by years of uncertainty over this debate, but we must move forward without reducing police presence when we need it the most. Now is not the time to put public safety at risk in Surrey or in any community in the province."


Continuing the transition is not without its drawbacks, the director of police services' report notes.

The province will need to continue to monitor the SPS's hiring to ensure that it is not undermining staffing at other agencies in B.C.

Farnworth also noted that an independent financial analysis commissioned by the province concluded that the SPS plan to staff 734 officers in Surrey will cost the city $30 million more per year than the RCMP would.

However, the analysis also confirmed that disbanding the SPS would cost the city $72 million in severance pay.

The B.C. government has offered the city financial support "to ensure no additional costs to Surrey residents," the news release indicates.


Farnworth's office explained that the recommendation to keep the SPS is not binding. The City of Surrey could continue its plan to revert to the RCMP.

If it did so, it would not have the financial support the province has promised to assist with continuing the transition.

It would also be subject to several binding conditions.

The city would be required to hire a strategic implementation advisor for the reversion to RCMP. It would also have to develop individualized human resources plans for the SPS and RCMP and revise its plan to ensure that restaffing Surrey RCMP is not prioritized over filling other RCMP vacancies in the province.

The city would also be obligated to hire an RCMP senior contract officer and a senior transition leader from the BC RCMP who is not currently a part of the Surrey RCMP.


Surrey city councillors voted 6-3 in December to stop the transition from the Surrey RCMP to the new Surrey Police Service, a process that had been ongoing – and controversial – for years. 

Creating a local force was the signature campaign promise of former mayor Doug McCallum when he was elected in 2018.

Four years later, McCallum's successor – current Mayor Brenda Locke – defeated him in his bid for re-election, running largely on a promise to stop the police transition and keep the RCMP.

Both Locke and McCallum scheduled news conferences to take place after Friday's announcement. McCallum also issued a statement praising the province for its decision.

"The people of Surrey deserve a safe and secure community, and with the province's financial assistance, we can ensure that there will be no additional costs to Surrey taxpayers," the former mayor's statement reads.

"It's time to put this debate behind us and work together to make Surrey an even safer place to live, work, and raise a family. This is a victory for Surrey residents who deserve the best modern urban police force." 

Earlier this week, councillors Doug Elford and Mandeep Nagra – both members of McCallum's Safe Surrey Coalition – accused Locke and the Surrey RCMP of blocking the deployment of 33 experienced SPS officers for political reasons. 

Locke, meanwhile, said it is Elford and Nagra who are up to "political mischief," and Asst. Comm. Brian Edwards, the officer in charge of the Surrey RCMP, said the detachment is fully staffed.

In January, Farnworth received reports from the city, the RCMP and the SPS, but said more information was needed before a decision on the future of policing in the city could be made. 

In the meantime, city councillors approved a budget with a 12.5-per-cent tax increase, driven in part by the cost of the police transition. Top Stories

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