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Farnworth says more info needed before making decision on Surrey’s policing future

Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke said province ‘needs to do the right thing and confirm the city has the right to this decision’
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Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke and B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth. (File photos)

Public Safety Minister and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth says more information is needed to “inform further consideration” as to whether Surrey should maintain the RCMP as its police department of jurisdiction or continue with the transition to the Surrey Police Service from the RCMP.

Farnworth released a statement to the press on Thursday saying ministry staff have done a “comprehensive review” of submissions received in December from the City of Surrey, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Surrey Police Service concerning the transition.

“It’s clear that considerable work has gone into developing these plans and reports, and I appreciate their timely submission,” he said. “The director of police services has determined that additional information is required to inform further consideration of the matter and has made a request to the parties for that information.

“The policing transition in Surrey is unprecedented and complex and requires a full and in-depth analysis. I am grateful for the work all parties have undertaken to date. We will await their timely responses and look forward to continued collaboration,” Farnworth added.

“This matter affects not only policing in Surrey, but across the province. The stability of policing is fundamental to ensuring our provincial responsibilities are met. Public safety in the City of Surrey and throughout British Columbia continues to be our core driving principle.”

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The RCMP has been Surrey’s police of jurisdiction since it took over from the Surrey Police on May 1, 1951, as the result of a plebiscite. Surrey’s is the largest RCMP detachment in all of Canada.

At the last Surrey council’s inaugural meeting on Nov. 5th, 2018 the council of the day, led by mayor Doug McCallum, served notice to the provincial and federal governments that it would end its contract with the RCMP to set up its own force.

Four years and one civic election later, on Nov. 14, 2022, the new council led by Brenda Locke decided on a 5-4 vote to maintain the Surrey RCMP as this city’s police of jurisdiction instead of forging ahead with the Surrey Police Service.

Locke said Thursday that Farnworth noted policing is Surrey’s decision to make, and that council has decided to maintain the RCMP.

“The City is now considering its options as I do not believe the province’s reason to delay its decision is justified,” Locke said, calling the “inability to make a timely decision” unfair to SPS and RCMP officers and their families and an impediment to Surrey’s ability to complete its 2023 budget.

“The longer two police agencies are operating with this uncertainty, the more taxpayer dollars are being unnecessarily spent. The instability needs to come to an end, and a timely response is critical,” she said.

“The City and the RCMP completed comprehensive plans on the steps forward to maintain the RCMP. We have clearly and thoroughly provided all the necessary details to demonstrate our ability to maintain the Surrey RCMP and can do so in a more cost effective and timely way than continuing with SPS.”

Locke said the RCMP has “served Surrey well” for 72 years and crime has been “trending downward over the past decade.

“It is natural to want more information as we put our plans into effect. It is a waste of time to continue to do that work prior to the province’s decision. The Minister needs to confirm the city has already made the decision. Now we need to act to get more information and an action plan in place. The city is ready to act. The province needs to do the right thing and confirm the city has the right to this decision.”

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At Wednesday’s Surrey Police Board meeting (Jan. 25), Chief Const. Norm Lipinski told the board the fledgling force has 331 sworn officers, with 205 on the street and 46 or so in “various stages” of training.

“We are quite robust, second biggest in B.C.,” he said of the SPS. “Our recruiting is strong.”

So far, Lipinski said, the SPS is 20 per cent female, 21 per cent South Asian and 50 per cent from “culturally diverse backgrounds,” speaking 38 languages all told.

“We are moving ahead but at a slower pace,” he told the board as all await Farnworth’s decision. The next Surrey Police Board meeting is set for Feb. 22.

The board also lamented the NDP delay, issuing a statement Thursday that the SPS has been “fully transparent and timely in its reporting to the provincial government.

“It is unfortunate that a matter of such critical importance to the community is being delayed, but we appreciate the work of the province in trying to move this process forward as quickly as possible, recognizing a final decision will have implications not only for Surrey but also the entire province,” it reads.

Surrey Board of Trade CEO Anita Huberman slammed the provincial government’s delay.

“We are extremely disappointed that the BC Government has compromised the public safety of our businesses and residents,” she said Thursday. “Our position is to retain the RCMP as Surrey’s public safety infrastructure. This continued delay in decision making by the BC Government holds Surrey as an economic hostage because economic investment decisions are being delayed without knowing what the future holds.”

“The request for more information does not clarify what information was missing in the original submissions provided by the City of Surrey, the Surrey RCMP and the Surrey Police Service. This signals a further lack of transparency to the public and business community. Further, no timeline was given to the public on when a decision will be made.”



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

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About the Author: Tom Zytaruk

I write unvarnished opinion columns and unbiased news reports for the Surrey Now-Leader.
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