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Surrey Police Service chief on transition delays, body-worn cameras, 'cordial' relationship with mayor

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If all goes according to plan, by 2026, the only police officers on the streets of B.C.’s fastest-growing city will be members of the Surrey Police Service.

That’s according to Chief Const. Norm Lipinski, who heads up the SPS.

He said next year, he hopes to add 180 new SPS officers. Each new hire would be replacing a current Surrey RCMP member.

“We are not adding to the budget,” he said of the planned hires.

“Very simply speaking, one in, one out. There has to be those vacancies,” Lipinski explained in an interview with CTV News.

“It comes down to how many people do we think we can hire, and how many people do we think we can train?”

But before any hiring takes place, the police budget for 2024 has to be approved by the city.

The transition from the RCMP to the SPS remains opposed by Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke, who recently announced a second court challenge on the matter.

“There certainly is that chance that the city would deny the budget, but there’s mechanisms in place through the Police Act where the province can step in as well,” Lipinski said when asked if he had concerns the budget may not get passed.

Despite the ongoing policing saga in Surrey, Lipinski described his relationship with the mayor as “cordial.”

“Certainly there is a difference in opinion. I respect her opinion. Obviously I don’t agree with it. I think we have to move forward. But I like to keep the politics out of it,” he said.

Lipinski is about to begin his fourth year at the helm of the SPS.

“The first three years have been a whirlwind,” he said, adding that part of his focus is building trust in the community.

“For the month of November, there have been 95 engagements,” he said.

“What does that mean? It means our people going out to community groups, businesses, faith groups, and explaining what we are all about,” Lipinski explained, adding that it’s time to put an end to the transition delays.

“I think it’s fair to say that the community’s had enough of this. Everybody wants it over. And we’d like to have it over as well,” he said.

Meanwhile, the police chief said looking ahead, he wants to see officers wearing body cameras. He said it’s something the community strongly supported in a survey.

He also wants drones used in Surrey policing.

“Drones do a lot to find young people who have wandered off, or senior citizens who have wandered off. We have a lot of green spaces here,” he said.

The SPS currently has about 400 employees.

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