Surrey allowed to proceed with its own municipal police force

Credit to Author: Jennifer Saltman| Date: Thu, 27 Feb 2020 20:04:32 +0000

B.C.’s solicitor general has formally authorized the City of Surrey to establish its own municipal police force, which will replace the Surrey RCMP, and start hiring a police board.

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum announced the decision on Thursday, saying it was Day 1 of the new police department.

“The time has come, and some would say it’s long overdue, for Surrey to have a police of its own, where accountability begins and stays within our city,” McCallum said.

Setting up a Surrey police force was one of the key pillars of McCallum’s municipal campaign platform, and council voted at its first meeting in November 2018 to proceed with the transition.

In May 2019, the city submitted a policing transition report to the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, which was prepared by the cities of Surrey and Vancouver and the Vancouver Police Department, and provided an overview of what Surrey’s force is expected to look like, including staffing numbers and costs.

Three months later, Solicitor General Mike Farnworth gave the city to continue the process, and set up a joint project team led by former B.C. attorney general Wally Oppal to conduct the research and analysis to fill in the gaps.

The team began its work in September, and submitted its 450-page report to the provincial government in January. That report has not yet been released to the public.

The areas the committee examined included pensions and collective agreement, recruitment, training, information management, information technology, investigative file continuity and business impacts.

As previously announced by the city, RCMP members will be able to transfer their pension to the municipal pension plan after they are hired. Salary and benefits will be in keeping with other municipal departments, and the collective agreements will also be similar.

A detailed recruitment plan has been developed and will be presented to the police board upon its formation for review and authorization. It outlines the process to recruit the chief constable and executive team, plus a transitional recruitment unit.

It’s expected a number of experienced officers will be hired, along with new recruits. The city is working with the Justice Institute of B.C. to make sure enough people can be trained to work for the police department.

Although extensive work has been done on information technology, there is more to be done and a cross-agency team has been struck to complete that work.

A key issue is maintaining continuity of investigative files, and it’s expected investigations and criminal proceedings will not be adversely affected. Surrey RCMP and the new department will work together on the transfer of responsibilities.

Surrey will also maintain its support for integrated regional policing teams such as the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team.

Further work will take place to deal with broader impacts, such as negotiating a new tripartite agreement with the Semiahmoo First Nation and policing Barnston Island, which is an unincorporated electoral area that is currently policed by Surrey RCMP through an agreement with the province.

It’s expected that in the coming days or weeks, positions will be posted for police board members. The board can have a maximum of nine members, with the mayor as the chair.

City council has already appointed one member to the board — Bob Rolls, a former Vancouver deputy police chief — and the provincial government will be responsible for appointing five other members. Two more can be appointed at a later date. The board will be responsible for hiring a police chief and senior staff.

There is no timeline for when the board will be appointed.

Oppal told a Surrey Board of Trade event on Wednesday that the city’s timeline of having the force up and running by April 1, 2021, is ambitious, hinting that it will take at least two years. McCallum agreed that the plan is ambitious, but stuck to his promise that the force will be in place by next April.

“I think it’s a very disappointing day for the residents of Surrey. The residents have been talking loud and clear that they do not want to transition away from the RCMP,” said Coun. Linda Annis, who has been outspoken about her concerns with the policing transition process.

Coun. Steven Pettigrew, a former member of McCallum’s slate, said he believes it’s time for the B.C. NDP to go, because they don’t represent the wishes of Surrey residents.

“They’ve lost their chance to remain here, so I think that they just need to go entirely from the city and we need a provincial government that actually listens to the people and represents the people,” Pettigrew said.

Paul Daynes, strategist for the Keep the RCMP in Surrey Campaign, said the group is “appalled” with the province’s decision. It has collected more than 40,000 signatures of people who are opposed to having a municipal police force.

“We will do everything we can to delay this,” he said.

— with a file from Kim Bolan