Surrey city Councillor Linda Annis is warning residents to expect “some sticker shock” when the plan for transitioning from the Surrey RCMP to a city police force is finally revealed.
“There is absolutely no way a Surrey police department is going to cost just 10 per cent more than the RCMP,” Annis, the lone Surrey First member on council, stated in a press release Monday. “The only way you can get to that number is hiding the real costs, and that’s no way to create a police department for this city.”
Mandeep Nagra, a Safe Surrey Coalition councillor, said Monday morning he was not aware of Annis’s press release or her “sticker shock” comment. “I have to read that before I make any comments on it,” he told the Now-Leader. Asked to respond to the premise itself, he replied “not right now.”
Surrey is ending its contract with the RCMP – which has policed these parts since May 1, 1951 – to set up its own force.
Annis, who is also head of the Metro Vancouver Crime Stoppers, argues that Surrey, B.C.’s second largest city, is too big for 835 police officers to patrol effectively and it would need roughly 1,200 to keep pace with Vancouver.
“Our population is 85 per cent of Vancouver’s population where they have about 1,400 officers,” she noted. “Based on that math, we should have almost 1,200 officers and probably more when you consider our geographic size. We’re almost three times the size of Vancouver, making Surrey a big place to get around.”
She said the “simple fact” is that a new Surrey police department is “not likely to make us safer” if it is not accompanied by a major increase in the number of police officers.
“The real issue is the number of police, not the colour of their uniforms,” Annis said. “Our city is a safe city, in spite of these occasional spikes in violent crime, and we’re growing by 300 families every month. Add all that to the sheer size of Surrey and you can see the real issue is the need for more officers.”
Annis has argued this point before. On Dec. 10, 2018, she told the Now-Leader that a hiring freeze “means public safety is going to be jeopardized and that’s reckless and unacceptable.”
On Dec. 19, in a five-four vote, Surrey council approved a budget that will not see any new police officers hired in 2019.
This move, Annis maintains, was “short-sighted and frankly it put public safety at risk.
“Policing in Surrey needs more officers and when the mayor failed to add the minimal number of officers in the last budget it only made the situation worse,” she said.
In January, anti-gang activist Sukhi Sandhu, of Wake Up Surrey, told council Surrey is 350 officers short of a full complement.
Asked in January if she regretted having voted along with the eight Safe Surrey Coalition council members to end the RCMP’s contract, Annis told the Now-Leader Mayor Doug McCallum gave her “assurances that the transition would cost no more than 10 per cent of what we’re currently paying for policing in Surrey.
“I’m not 100 per cent certain we can do that at that price and certainly provide the same or better service by going to a municipal police force and so I would like to see the policing plan or the transition plan before I make a decision as to whether or not I think it’s the right thing to do, or not,” she said at the time.
Does she harbour any regret today about voting for the city police force?
“I have no problem with the policing transition, if that’s the right thing for Surrey to do,” she said. “I didn’t vote for it not to be a transparent process. It’s very important that the residents of Surrey know what it is that we’re doing, what we’re proposing, what is it going to cost and how is it doing to make them feel safer.”
The transition plan was expected to be received by the provincial government for consideration by this week.
“The original plan the mayor was indicating that it was going to go by April 30. I’ve not heard officially yet but I believe that we may be taking another week or two to actually go through the plan,” Annis said Monday. “We’ve not yet seen it at council.”