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Locke campaigning hard for case for retaining Surrey RCMP

Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke posted three twitter videos last week as well as a press release hailing a ‘Mayor’s Working Group on Public Safety’
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth and Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke. (File photos)

Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke has launched a full court press on social media in her campaign to convince residents that sticking with the Surrey RCMP, rather than building the Surrey Police Service, is the best way to go.

In three video pitches since last Wednesday, on her Office of the Mayor @SurreyMayor twitter account, Locke sings the praises of the RCMP, saying crime has been “trending down” over the past decade and adding “we simply do not know if the Surrey Police Service can deliver effective policing for our city.”

That was Wednesday.

On Thursday, in a second video clip on the same account Locke says continuing with the SPS would not only be costly, “it would also prolong policing instability.”

Locke maintains the SPS needs 550 more officers to be deployed before it achieves full strength, “while the RCMP needs just 170.”

How Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth “sees the SPS as less impactful on provincial policing levels,” she said, “makes zero sense,” adding that transitioning to the SPS would take another three years, at a cost of $96 million each year as Surrey taxpayers would continue to pay during that time to maintain two police forces. “Another three years of instability is simply not in the best interest of our citizens, our children or our community,” she concludes.

On the heels of Thursday’s video, the city’s communications department issued a press release in which Locke announced a “Mayor’s Working Group on Public Safety,” with the objectives of “collaborating in the effort to bring Surrey’s RCMP Detachment to full authorized strength; and helping facilitate the design and implementation of Surrey’s integrated Community Safety and Well-Being Plan.”

“Now is an opportune time for all levels of government to work together to deliver services that provide citizens a safe and secure environment in which to live and work,” reads a statement attributed to Locke. “In addition to the RCMP, we are expanding our fire and rescue service and bylaw enforcement operations. Surrey is committed to a collaborative, solution-focused approach to community safety. I have been in contact with the Premier and I am pleased he has expressed support for this work. I am excited to move forward.”

On Friday, in a third video, Locke said a report from the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General noted “there had not been a failure” on the part of the Surrey RCMP to deliver “adequate and effective policing, nor a failure in public safety.

“The premier and the solicitor general are contradicting their own ministry’s report in suggesting there would be a public safety crisis if Surrey council chose the RCMP,” she said. “This is a manufactured crisis.”

Meantime, Coun. Linda Annis said the “simple fact” is Surreyites “are still in the dark when it comes to the facts and the real numbers about the police transition costs. It’s been that way for five years now and it’s absolutely ridiculous.

“The city, the province, the RCMP and the SPS all have their own numbers, and they can’t all be right,” Annis told the Now-Leader. “So from the taxpayer’s perspective people are still in the dark, and that’s no way to make a decision this big. The in camera meetings, the non-disclosure agreements that hide numbers from the public had made our resident cynical about this whole process. They’ve never had their say, not under Doug McCallum and not under Brenda Locke.

As for Locke’s “PR push” to promote the RCMP, Annis said the mayor is “really missing the point.

“The RCMP already have a strong brand and reputation in our city, we all respect the men and women of the RCMP, and frankly the SPS officer also deserve our respect. Anyone who is prepared to step up and protect our city and put themselves out there to do that, deserves support.

“We don’t need a PR campaign, we need the facts, the truth and the details that go into making the right decision. I’m hoping that’s what the province is doing right now, and like everyone else in our city I just want to get on with it. This issues has eaten up too much time, energy and money in Surrey over the past five years. It has been a distraction for far too long and prevented us from dealing with so many other important issues like housing, transit, infrastructure and economic development. This is what happens when politicians don’t give citizens a say. A referendum would have ended this issue years ago. Too often political egos get in the way of good decisions, and when that happens taxpayers always end up footing the bill.”

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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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