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Surrey police decision to fall on B.C. government

Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke is spearheading a police re-transition plan to rid the city of the nascent Surrey Police Service.
Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth.

Surrey city council narrowly approved the development of a plan to reverse the city’s police transition and maintain the Surrey RCMP at a Nov. 28 meeting.

Peter German, a former RCMP deputy commissioner for Western Canada, will now consult city staff in developing a framework agreement to be sent to Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth on Dec. 12, for final approval in January. Tonia Enger, another former RCMP executive, will consult with German, according to a “framework” report for maintaining the RCMP.

Missing from any reports to date has been the cost of re-transitioning.

Costs and transparency were key concerns of Mayor Brenda Locke, prior to unseating former mayor Doug McCallum in the Oct. 15 election.

The transition to a municipal force began in earnest in spring 2019 with a report outlining costs, then set at $45 million. Those one-time costs rose to about $64 million; however, that figure will be well exceeded, as Surrey Police Service (SPS) now reports sunken costs of about $100 million. Original cost estimates never contemplated parallel police administrations and municipal officers sitting on the sidelines developing policies. This year the city expects to spend an additional $21 million on servicing two departments.

The transition to date sees 168 SPS officers working alongside 573 RCMP officers, while still under RCMP command.

Legal agreements to complete the transition to SPS command are said to be complex while “substantive details have not been worked out, nor have agreements been drafted.”

A “holding pattern” will likely ensue through 2023 that “will require the city to continue to fund through most of 2023 a complement of non-deployed SPS police officers far in excess of the city’s ability to pay,” stated senior city managers in their framework report.

In order to re-transition, the Surrey RCMP will need to re-hire at least 168 new officers. The city believes this can be done largely by targeting SPS officers deployed within the RCMP as well as the 140 officers that are hired but not yet deployed. These officers can likely take advantage of the RCMP’s Experienced Police Officer Program to bypass the cadet recruitment process.

“Implementation of the plan will require direction from the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General, and collaboration between the [Surrey Police Board], SPS, the City of Surrey and the RCMP.”

If approved, the city would sell off or re-assign capital assets, such as vehicles and technology systems. Other considerations are third-party contracts and civilian administrative staff needing to be re-positioned with the RCMP.

“The step taken by council tonight brings us closer to resolving the issue of policing in Surrey,” said Locke in an online statement.

“The experience and expertise of Dr. Peter German and Tonia Enger are valuable additions to the Project Team. As well, this latest report makes clear how the number of police officers in Surrey will be maintained at its current level of 734 RCMP members. The process to bring in Surrey Police officers will be expedited through the RCMP’s Experienced Officer Program, which makes provision for experienced officers to bypass cadet hiring and join the RCMP directly.”

The framework report can be found online. It passed in a 5-4 council vote with Locke's Surrey Connect councillors supporting it. 

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