Oppal says new Surrey police force would be more accountable to locals

Credit to Author: Kim Bolan| Date: Wed, 26 Feb 2020 20:23:49 +0000

Former B.C. Attorney General Wally Oppal says that Surrey’s municipal police agency would likely not be operational for another two years if the B.C. government gives the go-ahead for the transition from the RCMP to the new force.

Oppal spoke to a packed room at the Surrey Board of Trade Wednesday about his role as chair of the transition committee looking at the creation of the municipal force.

He said he could not release the committee’s 450-page report, which was handed to the provincial government after four months of meetings and consultation.

But Oppal said the committee looked at all the key issues about establishing a municipal force: recruitment, managing pensions, creation of a police board and “what happens to ongoing investigations, what happens to ongoing prosecutions.

“All of those things are matters we dealt with during the course of our deliberations. I think it is a sound report,” he said.

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum has suggested a municipal police force could be in place in a matter of months, but policing report author Wally Oppal says that’s “ambitious.” NICK PROCAYLO / PNG

But he said Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum’s public commitment to have the force up and running within months “might be ambitious.”

“You want to make sure that whatever is done is done correctly, the right way and according to standards,” Oppal said. “I’d say you are looking at a good two years.”

He said the report pointed out both the positives and negatives of creating a municipal force in Surrey, which is soon to surpass Vancouver as B.C.’s largest city.

“I think that the major advantage is local accountability, as opposed to having a police force that is governed from Ottawa,” he said. “Members of the police board will be local citizens and they will no doubt deal with local priorities and local conditions.”

Surrey is the largest city in Canada without its own municipal force, Oppal said.

“So with the future growth it may be useful for Surrey to have its own police force. And when I say that I am not denigrating the RCMP. From personal experience I know the good work that they have done.”

A disadvantage “is you don’t have that national presence that only the RCMP can bring, and the RCMP have that expertise in conducting complex investigations,” he said.

Oppal provided no specifics on costs for a municipal force except to say it would likely be more expensive than what the city pays for the Surrey RCMP.

But given that the RCMP is unionizing and seeking better wages in its first collective agreement, “the gap is going to narrow.”

More to come …



CLICK HERE to report a typo.

Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email vantips@postmedia.com.