New Surrey Police Board looks for answers on costs, timeline
SURREY, B.C. -- The new board of the new Surrey Police Service raised a number of key questions Thursday about the transition to the new municipal police force, which Mayor Doug McCallum, also the board’s chair, has indicated he wants to have operational by April 1.
At the board’s first meeting, member Harley Chappell – also the elected chief of the Semiahmoo First Nation – asked both about the price of the transition, and what the new department would cost to operate versus the current arrangement with the RCMP.
Chappell asked for a “one-pager, something simple, that would give (a) comparison.”
Terry Waterhouse, the General Manager of the transition told Chappell during the meeting it was “all public information,” but when CTV News Vancouver tried to get more details about the “one-sheet,” the board’s new Executive Director Melissa Granum said staff needed “some time to work on it.”
At a virtual news conference later Thursday, board member Elizabeth Model echoed Chappell, indicating it was a “good question,” and the board has asked the transition team to pull those numbers together.
In June, Wally Oppal, the former BC Attorney General who led the transition committee before the board was formed told CTV News:
“It’s a bit premature to talk about costs, but probably it will cost more than the RCMP as it presently stands.”
The city has also earmarked nearly $130 million it its five-year budget for the transition, but it’s not clear if that number is still accurate.
“A Surrey police service is not simply a change in the uniform,” McCallum said during the meeting. “It is about local autonomy. It is about local accountability. And it is about representing the diverse communities we serve.”
During the meeting, board member Meena Brisard also asked Waterhouse what would happen if the new Surrey Police Service was not fully operational by April 1.
Waterhouse responded that the date was flexible if certain signposts weren’t met along the way.
The transition to a municipal police force, McCallum’s key promise when he was elected as mayor in October 2018, has been controversial from its inception. Some politicians, business leaders, and voters have consistently raised concerns over costs, staffing, and the possible impact on public safety of a transition that – because of Surrey’s size at over half a million people – has been called unprecedented.
Opposition City Councillor Linda Annis, who says she is now pushing the board to advise the city to call a Surrey-wide vote to allow residents to choose to keep or drop the RCMP, said Thursday she’s concerned about what seems like a rush to get things up and running.
“We need to be looking for innovative ways to do policing in Surrey,” Annis said. “We should be taking the time and developing that model, not rushing through something to get the job done.”
Anita Huberman, the CEO of Surrey’s Board of Trade, which opposes the transition – especially during the COVID-19 pandemic – sent the new police board a list of 11 questions that included concerns about the cost and timeline. The board indicated Thursday that it doesn’t have answers to those questions yet.
“We believe (the transition) is not a done deal,” Huberman said.
She added given the economic uncertainty created by the coronavirus, Surrey should be focused on economic recovery and job creation and “everything else should be put on ice.”
McCallum said the board’s first priority will be to recruit a chief and the search will begin immediately.
The board’s next meeting is scheduled for Sept. 15.