THE City of Surrey has been given approval to proceed with the formation of Surrey Police Department, following a review by Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, Mike Farnworth, of the report submitted by the Provincial Municipal Policing Transition Study Committee.
“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,” said Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum on Thursday. “With Minister Farnworth’s final approval to establish the Surrey Police Board, today marks day one for the Surrey Police Department.”
With a population of nearly 600,000, Surrey is the only major city in the country without its own city police department.
“The time has come, and some would say it’s been long overdue, for Surrey to have a police force of its own where accountability begins and stays within our city,” said McCallum. “Local responsibility, priorities and oversight will reside within the Surrey Police Board, which will be comprised of our most qualified citizens. City staff will be working diligently with the Province to put the Surrey Police Board in place. I look forward to beginning the work with my fellow board members to bring Surrey Police to full operational strength.”
MEANWHILE, the Province announced that Farnworth has granted approval to create a municipal police board for the City of Surrey – the next stage in the plan to transition from the RCMP to a municipal police department.
The Province in a press statement said: “Having considered the Provincial Municipal Policing Transition Study Committee’s report, as well as the recommendation of the director of police services, in line with section 3 of the Police Act, the minister is confident that the key aspects of the transition plan that required more detail have been thoroughly considered.
“Chaired by Wally Oppal, the Provincial Municipal Policing Transition Study Committee included representatives from the City of Surrey, the ministry and independent consultants with specialized expertise. The committee was established in August 2019 to ensure the City of Surrey’s transition plan addressed all key issues, and its work has now concluded.”
The Surrey police board, once established, will be responsible for creating and governing the Surrey Police Department. Responsibilities will include:
* being the employer of the police and civilian employees;
* providing financial oversight for the police department;
* establishing policies and direction for the police department; and
* managing service and policy complaints against the department.
To support the transition process, the Policing Model Transition Secretariat (established in spring 2019) and the director of police services will continue to provide oversight, leadership and support for the Province and the City of Surrey. This will ensure provincial accountabilities, public safety and police oversight are maintained throughout.
All parties involved acknowledge the complex scale of a transition this size and are committed to co-operation and collaboration with Public Safety Canada and the RCMP.
A timeline for the transition will be determined by key partners as this work progresses.
In 2018, the City of Surrey initiated termination of its agreement with the RCMP and the transition to a municipal police force, in accordance with its powers under the Police Act.
For a factsheet on the transition process, visit: http://news.gov.bc.ca/factsheets/surrey-police-transition-process
SURREY RCMP CHIEF’S STATEMENT
SURREY RCMP Assistant Commissioner Brian Edwards said in a statement: “Today the City of Surrey was granted approval to move to the next stage in their plan to transition from the RCMP to a municipal police department. We respect that every municipality has the right to choose what type of police force they want for their city. But that is not to say this is not difficult for us. Given the nature of the work we do in the community, we are heavily invested in Surrey and its residents. This situation is discouraging for our members who enjoy policing this community and, in particular, for those who live in Surrey and raise their families here.
“I have not seen the report done by the Provincial Municipal Policing Transition Study Committee, so I cannot comment on the process ahead, timeline, or policing structure during a transition. I hope to be brought into those conversations in the weeks and months ahead so I can ensure the safety of Surrey residents and the well-being of members and employees throughout this process.
“While there is still a long road ahead, I want to take this opportunity to thank the thousands of local citizens who have shown their support for the great work being done by the Surrey RCMP. There is no denying that we have deep connection with this community, and that is a significant part of what motivates us in our work every day.”
“DOING WHAT HE SAID HE WAS GOING TO DO”
Former solicitor general Kash Heed told The VOICE that approval of a municipal police force was, at the end of the day, “a political decision,” adding: “You knew they were going to approve of this … I am not surprised at all.”
In fact, that is what Heed had told The VOICE in an interview quite a while ago.
Heed noted: “Doug McCallum was basically elected on two primary issues. One of them was the SkyTrain and the other one was creating your own independent municipal policy agency. He’s accomplished both.”
He added: “You can’t say that Doug McCallum did not say what he was going to do. He has done it and regardless of the political crisis that some of these people created, regardless of the hurdles and roadblocks that were put up by so many people … including the Surrey Board of Trade. The Surrey Board of Trade was biased, in my opinion, from the beginning on what has taken place. They showed their bias soon after Doug McCallum was elected as the Mayor of Surrey and they continued to show their bias in regard to this particular issue.”
When The VOICE pointed out to Heed that some had tried to paint this as a South Asian issue, he shot back: “It was not a South Asian issue. But you have to look at the percentage of South Asians that live in Surrey. The fact that they are the ones that have to ensure they have an accountable, effective and efficient police service not only for their community, but the community at large. Doug McCallum set out to do that and he’s accomplished it.”
Heed added: “I am full of praise for the fact that he had such tenacity to see this through. … A lot of politicians say a lot of things and accomplish very little. Doug McCallum said from the beginning that he was going to bring the SkyTrain in and he was going to have his own independent municipal police. That’s my praise for Doug McCallum – doing what he said he was going to do.”