Surrey police transition costs, timeline still unknown
SURREY -- A 450-page report examining a police transition plan for the City of Surrey details some of the next steps in establishing a municipal force but doesn't provide answers on costs or timeline.
On Wednesday, the Surrey Board of Trade hosted an event featuring former B.C. solicitor general Wally Oppal, who chairs the committee in charge of overseeing the transition plan.
Oppal told attendees he isn't able to provide the public with the report because it was his obligation to give it to the director of policing, who will then pass it onto the current solicitor general Mike Farnworth.
He did provide a brief outline of the contents of the report: the importance of a police board, recruitment and how current investigations and prosecutions will be handled.
"I think that it's a sound report and those are some of the factors that we looked at and we gave that material to the director of policing," he said.
He said a cost-analysis study hasn't been conducted and he isn't able to provide a concrete number to the price of a civic police force.
"It will cost more, but we don't know how much," he said. "But the trade-off is, you'll have local control over your own police force."
He said the RCMP tend to be cheaper because the federal government provides a 10 per cent subsidy and, so far, the Mounties haven't been unionized. He speculates wages will go up if they do form a union.
Oppal said the advantage of the RCMP is the national presence they bring and their expertise in conducting complex investigations.
But he can't say which would benefit the City of Surrey more.
"I don't have a crystal ball to say they'll be better – I don't know," he said.
Councillor Jack Hundial said he's concerned to hear a municipal police force would cost significantly more.
"There are only so many ways to raise money in the City of Surrey: you can raise taxes or you can start selling assets. And my personal fear as a councillor here, is the city will sell mass land assets just to pay for this project," he explained.
Farnworth confirmed he received the report and had a chance to look at the recommendations.
"The report is very thorough, very comprehensive and there’s been a lot of work put into it, " he said, adding he will be making more comments on it soon.
Oppal took questions from the floor, in which many residents took the opportunity to vent their frustrations.
"Our city hall is dysfunctional right now. When I go to the meetings, I'm so frustrated, I can't believe what's going on," said resident Marilyn Smith. "Council is spilt and the mayor votes and he gets his own way. He is not thinking about us."
Many attendees also noted how Mayor Doug McCallum and four councillors in the Safe Surrey Coalition were not present at the event.
"They say that they are open and that they're approachable but they're not here, and it's a slap on the faces of the citizens of Surrey," said one woman who identified herself as a Surrey resident of 80 years.
A spokesperson for the City of Surrey said the mayor will not be commenting on Oppal's remarks.