Surrey will not be 'bullied' into policing decision, mayor says in response to public safety minister
Should the Province step in and decide the future of policing in Surrey? The question comes as some accuse the city of dragging its heels.
The mayor and council have yet to make a final decision on policing after the province recommended continuing the transition to a municipal force.
“Here we’ve been elected 10 months and we still don’t have a decision of what to do with the Surrey Police Service,’ said Coun. Linda Annis.
“Let’s just move on… We have other issues we need to deal with in Surrey, said Coun. Doug Elford.
“Truthfully, People are getting tired of talking about it,” he added.
B.C.’s public safety minister said he doesn’t want to interfere, but will if it becomes necessary.
“At the end of the day, if a decision isn’t made, government does have the ability to make a decision,” he said, adding however, that the province expects Surrey will make its own decision soon.
“If public safety is being threatened, the province always has the ability to say legislation is required,” Farnworth explained.
'SOMEBODY NEEDS TO MAKE A DECISION'
Meanwhile, Annis said she would support the province stepping in and making the decision if council doesn’t do so soon.
“Somebody needs to make a decision and we need to make a decision in the best interest of Surrey and the province of British Columbia,” she said.
In a letter issued Thursday, Farnworth expressed concerns that Surrey council has not provided a date for when it expects to bring the debate to an end.
He also says he’s worried that council will vote on the matter before reviewing a confidential report that, according to Farnworth, showed the transition to the Surrey Police Service is “the best way to achieve public safety In B.C., especially given the ongoing RCMP vacancy challenges.”
CTV News wanted to speak with Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke regarding the policing issue. However, staff said she was unavailable.
Locke did issue a statement, saying in part, “the province has taken over five months to arrive at their recommendations and we are now expected to make a decision in a few weeks.”
“Council will make an informed and responsible decision, but we will not be pressured or bullied into making a hasty one,” the statement continues.
But Annis and Elford say residents are fed-up with the uncertainty.
“We’re singularly focused on this one issue. There’s a lot of other business to be done in Surrey and we need to get on with it,” Annis said.
“Many of my constituents are getting impatient as well. They want a decision and they want it soon,” said Elford.
PUBLIC SAFETY MINISTER 'GRAVELY CONCERNED'
On April 28, Farnworth released his recommendation for the city to move forward with the SPS, based on the report by Glen Lewis.
Ninety minutes after that recommendation was announced, Locke—who campaigned on a promise to keep the RCMP in Surrey—vowed to do just that, but nothing has been finalized since.
On May 12, the B.C. government invited Locke and her council to sign a confidentiality agreement in order to obtain a copy of the report.
“It contains confidential information that outlines police operations, information regarding intergovernmental relations, and information on the federal, provincial, and municipal business lines within the RCMP. The safeguarding of this sensitive information is paramount to public safety,” Farnworth wrote Thursday.
Only half of the council has signed the confidentiality agreement, according to the public safety ministry.
“I am gravely concerned that council may proceed without considering all relevant information available,” said Farnworth.
Locke, however, has argued that her council has already made the decision to retain the RCMP.
“Our decision has not changed,” Locke told reporters at a news conference in April. “The truth is, the original decision to allow this transition to go ahead was rushed and done without due diligence, and Surrey taxpayers have been paying dearly for it ever since," she added.
Transitioning to a municipal service is expected to cost an additional $30 million annually, compared to the cost of operating the RCMP.
In response to the province’s offer of financial support to help the city manage those costs, Locke described the recommendation as one “with strings attached.”
Farnworth is now requesting four things from the city—one of them being for all council members to sign the confidentiality agreement and review the report.
His other requests include a commitment from the city that ‘the mandatory conditions, requirements and financial implications for the applicable police model will be met.”
Farnworth also wants those commitments laid out in a report for council to consider before making the highly-anticipated vote—which he’s requesting a date be set for.
“I look forward to working with you and City staff to resolve this matter promptly. I know we share the same goal of ending the long period of uncertainty for the people of Surrey and ensuring the safety and security of Surrey, and the well-being of those police officers that serve your community,” his letter concludes.
With files from CTV News Vancouver’s Ian Holliday
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