This Ideas Box greeted those attending Surrey’s first public consultation session on the policing transition plan in Cloverdale on May 23. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)

‘Absolute sham’: Policing survey full of ‘open-ended questions,’ Surrey councillor says

Brenda Locke says newly released results fly in face McCallum’s claim of ‘overwhelming’ support

While Surrey Councillor Brenda Locke says she’s “very happy” that the Surrey police transition citizen consultation survey results have been released, she’s questioning the mayor’s claim of “overwhelming” support.

“The whole police transition consultation process was an absolute sham of process,” Locke said Tuesday. “I think the City of Surrey should be embarrassed that we would do a process that was so wrought with holes and had such open-ended questions.

“It was not a good process and so there’s all kinds of questions about the process, period.”

Locke said the hundreds of pages of comments in the 628-page document fly in the face of the survey results that stated 93 per cent of respondents said, “It’s time that Surrey had a police department that is locally led.”

While there were many comments in support of the police transition, many also asked what the actual cost of the transition would be and many asked the city to keep the RCMP.

Plus, Locke said it’s “pretty symbolic” the results were released just days before Christmas.

“I think that was rather deliberate,” Locke said.

City staff said Mayor Doug McCallum was unlikely to comment on the results and Councillor Laurie Guerra told the Now-Leader she was unavailable to comment due to the holidays. City hall is closed Dec. 25 to Jan. 2, 2020.

Over a five-week period in May and June, the City of Surrey held 23 public engagement events as it moved to transition from the RCMP policing model to a municipal police force. During this time, the city offered an online “Policing Transition Citizen Engagement Survey” that had a comments section and survey questions that included multiple choice answers.

In total, 11,103 surveys were completed and 12,283 “pieces of input” were received. About 4,000 people attended the events.

Then on June 24, the city issued a release, saying there was “overwhelming” citizen support for local police. Results in that release included that, “I believe our police department should prioritize its efforts based on what is important to Surrey citizens: 98% Strongly Agree/Agree.”

OUR VIEW: Surrey mayor jumps to conclusion on police transition survey results, June 25, 2019

READ ALSO: Councillors say new policing poll show ‘disconnect’ between mayor, Surrey residents, Sept. 26, 2019

Since then, Locke said she’s been pushing to have the raw data from the consultation survey released. After months of trying with no success, Locke said she then went to the Freedom of Information officer in Victoria “to help me manoeuvre this.”

“To withhold this information from not only the public, but from council and we have to make decisions… this is unconscionable to me,” Locke said.

On Sept. 27, Locke received the raw data, but was prevented from releasing it to the public, she said.

The Now-Leader had also asked the City of Surrey for the consultation materials, as well as submitted an FOI. On Monday (Dec. 23), the city’s freedom of information officer said the records had been made available on the city’s website.

The document includes a citizen engagement strategy update report from staff dated July 18, the results from the multiple-choice survey, online comments and written comments.

“I’m glad they’re released. They needed to be released. The public needed to see the information, and actually so did the (Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth), all the MLAs and, certainly, Wally Oppal,” Locke said. “I think that the public is going to say, ‘Why did the mayor tell us one thing when the survey results said another?’ I think they will question the mayor and his frankness about how the survey results were portrayed because, certainly, they are not portrayed the way he portrayed them in June.”

On Monday (Dec. 23), the city sent out a release stating that the Provincial Municipal Policing Transition Study Committee had forwarded its report on the police transition to committee chair Oppal.

READ ALSO: Surrey Policing Transition committee report forwarded to Wally Oppal, Dec. 23, 2019

Asked if she thinks the results being released will have any impact on that, Locke said, “it must.”

“I think that it shows that this whole transition has been predicated on a lie, at least in terms of the public desire to see the move away from the RCMP,” Locke said. “You can tell by the results, there’s certainly no 93 per cent of the population that wants to see this happen.”

The results can be found at surrey.ca/police/default.aspx.

READ ALSO: Surrey councillor’s motion to ‘immediately stop’ policing transition process fails, Dec. 14, 2019

On Nov. 5, 2018, council passed the motion to “immediately create a Surrey police department,” just minutes after taking the Oath of Office on Nov. 5, 2018. Safe Surrey councillors Locke, Steven Pettigrew, Jack Hundial and lone Surrey First Councillor Linda Annis all voted in favour of the motion.

Since then, the Locke, Pettigrew and Hundial have left Safe Surrey coalition and all four have been vocal about the city’s move to establish a municipal police force.

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