Surrey gets green light to proceed with municipal police force
VANCOUVER -- The B.C. government has approved the creation of a Surrey Police Board, which will create and oversee the city's new municipal police force.
Mayor Doug McCallum announced the milestone in Surrey's transition away from its RCMP detachment on Thursday, which he declared "day one for the Surrey Police Department."
"In just over one year, we moved from a unanimous council motion to full reality on our promise to deliver to the citizens of Surrey a city police department," McCallum said in a statement.
Once established, the board will be able to begin hiring police and civilian employees. It will also be responsible for financial oversight of the department.
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth gave the green light for Surrey's new police board after reviewing the 450-page report prepared by the province's transition committee.
Farnworth's ministry said he is "confident that the key aspects of the transition plan that required more detail have been thoroughly considered."
Some things the report didn't determine were exactly how much moving to a municipal force will cost, or how long it will take, but committee chair Wally Oppal said it will be more expensive than the RCMP. Surrey's five-year budget has earmarked $129.6 million toward the transition.
"It will cost more, but we don't know how much," Oppal said at a Surrey Board of Trade event on Wednesday. "But the trade-off is, you'll have local control over your own police force."
McCallum expressed elation during Thursday's announcement, but not everyone on council echoed that sentiment.
“I think it’s a very disappointing day for residents of Surrey. The residents have been talking loud and clear that they do not want to transition away from the RCMP,” said Linda Annis.
Couc. Steve Pettigrew said he tried contacting the premier and Farnworth over the past six weeks but his requests haven’t been returned.
“I did my due diligence of trying to reach out to them. They were not interested and now they have to pay the price,” he said.
The group Keep the RCMP in Surrey has been collecting signatures in its petition to stop the transition. Paul Daynes, a member of the group, said the announcement won’t discourage them from continuing to express their frustrations.
“[A civic police force] is not wanted and it’s not needed. And within a democratic progress and within the bounds of civic discourse, we will do anything we can to make sure it doesn’t happen,” he said.
McCallum said he and other Safe Surrey Coalition councillors were elected based on the promise of a municipal police force and the democratic process was followed.
“I’m very, very proud to be standing here because we committed ourselves during the election,” he said.
The mayor said he hopes to see Surrey Police Department officers on the streets by April 1, 2021, a date that Farnworth and Opal have both called “ambitious.”