'Trying to keep morale up will be a challenge': Surrey councillor, RCMP weigh in on policing plan
A Surrey city councillor is raising concerns about what the next few years may look like in the city as the plan to switch from RCMP to a municipal force moves forward.
Brenda Locke, who has left the party in power and admits to not getting along with the mayor, spoke to CTV News Vancouver the day after the project was given a provincial green light.
"Trying to keep morale up will be a challenge," the councillor said in an interview Friday morning.
"I am very deeply concerned about our city though between now and when we get there. This has been a very tough time for our good women and men in the RCMP and they have been treated pretty shabbily, I would say."
A plan for the new force was approved Thursday by B.C. Solicitor General Mike Farnworth, who also announced the province put together a joint committee to ensure the transition from RCMP is a smooth one.
Former attorney general Wally Oppal will oversee the process, with help from municipal and provincial staff and experts.
The RCMP is not doing interviews about the decision, saying it is a service provider only, and can only discuss or comment on the plan if it is asked to do so by the Joint Transition Committee struck by the province.
But Deputy Comm. Jennifer Strachan, who is the commanding officer of the BC RCMP, did release a short statement, saying in part:
"Surrey Detachment employees have the full support of the BC RCMP and will continue to perform the exceptional work they do on a daily basis as the Province of B.C. and the City of Surrey continue this process."
The decision to move away from the RCMP has been controversial, particularly since details of the plan became public. Some members of Surrey city council who were originally elected as part of the mayor's Safe Surrey Coalition have left the party over concerns with the police transition report sent to the province.
Mayor Doug McCallum, who took power largely based on a campaign to create the new municipal force, called Thursday a "great and historic day."
When asked about the committee, Locke said she is hopeful the process will run smoothly going forward.
"I am hoping for transparency and I know we will have accountability," Locke said. "I know this will be a fair an honourable process."
CTV News spoke with more than a dozen Surrey residents outside the Surrey Central SkyTrain Station Friday morning.
Many people said they were not paying close attention to the plan, but others had strong opinions.
Resident Sonny Atwal, who was born and raised in Surrey and still lives in the city, says he has concerns about the cost of the switch.
"It's going to be a lot more money we are going to have to dish out for this municipal policing," Atwal told CTV News. "I feel the RCMP is doing a really good job and I think they should continue on with the RCMP.
Another Surrey resident, who has lived in the city for 33 years, agrees.
"Keep the RCMP," James said. "They are experienced. They have all the knowledge of Surrey."
McCallum was asked by reporters Thursday about the possibility of a referendum on the idea of the switch, but said it was unnecessary.
"I consider an election a referendum on this, it was the number one issue we campaigned on," McCallum said.
The plan approved by the province Thursday suggests the Surrey Police will take over on the proposed date of April 1, 2021. The city's current contract with the RCMP expires March 31, 2021.