Surrey City Council “cannot order the Surrey Police Board and Surrey Police Service to stop hiring employees”

THE Surrey Police Board in its response to the City of Surrey request to stop hiring and spending, said that the City Council “cannot order the Surrey Police Board and Surrey Police Service to stop hiring employees,” adding: “similarly, it cannot freeze SPS’s budgeted expenditures.”

Cheney Cloke

Here’s the letter dated December 1 signed by Jessie Sunner and Cheney Cloke, Vice Chairs of Surrey Police Board:


We write to address your letter of November 15, 2022, in which you instructed the Surrey Police Board (the Board) to suspend all new hiring and expenditures to advance the policing transition to Surrey Police Service (SPS) from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. In your letter, you also request that the Board reach out to the RCMP to align both SPS and RCMP 2023 provisional budgets.

Although City Council passed the motions set out in your letter, it cannot order the Surrey Police Board and Surrey Police Service to stop hiring employees. Similarly, it cannot freeze SPS’s budgeted expenditures. On November 15, 2022, the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General corrected this misunderstanding by commenting publicly on the role and authority of Surrey City Council in relation to SPS, our hiring process and our expenditures. The Vancouver Sun on-line edition (November 15, 2022) reported the Minister’s comments:

B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said Tuesday the City of Surrey does not have the authority to order a spending freeze by the Surrey Police Service before a decision is made on halting the transition from the RCMP. The province has final say on the transition. … ‘They don’t have any authority to freeze spending,’ said Farnworth, responding in Victoria to reporters’ questions. ‘There is a (transition) plan that is already in place. And that plan continues until there is a new plan.’ ” (accessed November 23, 2022 at )

As you are aware, the Surrey Police Service was established by the Surrey Police Board in August 2020, after the appointment of the Board members by the Lieutenant Governor in Council of the Province of British Columbia. Pursuant to section 26 of the BC Police Act, the Board established a municipal police department and appointed a chief constable and other constables and employees the municipal police board considered necessary to provide policing and law enforcement in the municipality.

The Surrey Police Board is independent from the City. This is recognized in the City’s own Framework document dated November 24, 2022 which states: “The Board is an independent entity from the City” (at p. 8). The Surrey Police Board’s independence from City Council is confirmed by the provisions of the Police Act. The first principle under the Act is independence of police services from municipal governments, at both the Mayor and Councillor level and the city administration level. The appointment letters for Board members state, in part:

Municipal police boards are created independently from municipal councils and from the provincial government. This removes boards from partisan council politics and recognizes that both the municipality and the province have legitimate interests in municipal policing.

The word “governed” in section 23(1) of the Police Act is significant. The Board governs SPS, City Council does not. Although the Mayor is the Chair of the Board under section 25(1) of the Act, the Mayor’s position as Chair is ex officio, and the Chair must act in the interests of the Board, voting only in the event of a tie.

Section 26(2) of the Police Act stipulates that the duties and functions of a municipal police department are under the direction of the municipal police board, and that (3) subject to a collective agreement, the chief constable and every employee of a municipal police department must be employees of the board, and must be provided with the accommodation, equipment and supplies the board considers necessary to carry out their duties and functions.

The Police Act further provides specific and clear direction for the preparation and approval of the municipal police department’s budget, including a provision to dispute direction from city council. Section 27(3) states:

If a council does not approve an item in the budget, the director, on application by the council or the municipal police board, must

(a) determine whether the item or amount should be included in the budget, and

(b) report the director’s findings to the municipal police board, the council and the minister.

This section provides assurance that a city’s mayor and council do not have the authority to over-ride, pause or change the police department’s budget or operations. It is a foundational principle of the governance of municipal police departments in BC that local governments remain arms-length from policing operations, and it is the Board’s duly appointed responsibility to ensure both continued resources and the well-being of our employees.

Your request that the Board work with the RCMP to align our budgets is concerning. City staff are well aware that the RCMP will not readily share information with outside agencies. Having said that, the Board is prepared to share information requested by the City, as indicated later in this letter, and expects the City will provide the same information it has from the RCMP to the Board. This is both fair and ensures openness. Regarding the Board’s budget, the Board has prepared the 2023 provisional budget for SPS and has submitted it to the City on time as required by section 27 of the Police Act. The alignment of the SPS and RCMP budgets within the overall Policing Operations budget is the City’s responsibility, although the Board is prepared to participate in open, collaborative and constructive processes with both the City and the RCMP as required.

Respecting your request for information related to salary, operating, and capital costs, we have prepared our response in the attached appendix. As stated earlier, it is consistent with openness and fairness that the City provide the Board with the same type of information it has regarding the RCMP. Going forward, the Surrey Police Board and Surrey Police Service will continue to act on the advice and guidance of the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General in these matters.


Letter – SPB LT CoS – response to City letter of Nov 15 2022- final