Surrey Coun. Brenda Locke is slamming the Police Act reform committee’s report that recommended transitioning to a new provincial police force, as well as regional forces.
The report is also causing Surrey’s two mayoral candidates to dig their heels in about what the report means for Surrey Police Service and the RCMP.
While Mayor Doug McCallum says even if the report’s recommendations are adopted, he’s been told Surrey would be able to keep its municipal force, Locke insists there’s “not any indication” of that in the report.
Locke, who is also mayoral candidate for Surrey Connect, says the city’s transition to the Surrey Police Service from Surrey RCMP “does not mesh at all” with the recommendations in the report.
“What they’re saying is they’re going to move to a provincial or regional model,” she said. “It did not talk about that at all. What it’s talking about is putting regional resources together as opposed to individual cities. So it begs the question for Surrey, why would we do this transition now when in five, seven years if this goes through, we’re going to be doing this all again?
“It doesn’t make sense at all.”
However, on page 78 of the 96-page report, it states, “As with the current model, municipalities would still have the opportunity to establish a municipal police service, contract with the provincial police service, or enter into an agreement with another municipality or Indigenous community that has a local police service to meet their policing needs.”
The Now-Leader has reached out to the committee for clarification.
The Special Committee on Reforming the Police Act released its report Thursday (April 28). It included 11 recommendations to “transform policing and community safety.” The 10-person all-party committee also included three Surrey MLAs: Garry Begg for Surrey-Guildford, Trevor Halford for Surrey-White Rock and Rachna Singh for Surrey-Green Timbers.
The report recommends transitioning to a new provincial police service that’s governed by the new Community Safety and Policing Act. It also recommends amalgamating police services on a regional basis where there are opportunities “to address fragmentation, ensure equitable access to policing and public safety, and improve efficiency and effectiveness.”
Locke said she thinks it’s a “real indication” the SPS is “on the wrong track because they are looking for overall provincial or regional policing, which the Surrey Police Service does not fit that model.”
“I think it’s a real reason to stop this whole Surrey Police Service right now.”
Meantime, McCallum said a switch to a provincial service is a “really good move,” adding “cities like Surrey can keep their municipal force.”
“A lot of people that we worked with when we were developing our police service were quite keen on a provincial service, especially all the mid-(sized) and smaller cities in B.C.,” he noted. “I think that’s a really good way to run the public safety in the province because what it does is it brings local governance and sort of local accountability and local decision making into each place in B.C. rather than from Ottawa.”
McCallum has also said he supports the entire 96-page report released by the Police Act reform committee – including the recommendation not allowing mayors to serve as police board chairs.
McCallum, who serves as chair of the Surrey Police Board, told the Now-Leader he “fully” supports the recommendation and he hopes the provincial government “moves fairly quickly on it to get it going.”
The report recommends “ensuring municipal council representation on municipal police boards or committees, while not allowing the mayor to serve as board chair.”
He said such a move would help prevent conflicts between the two roles.
“It does bring up some feeling that person could be in a bit of a conflict doing both of them,” McCallum said shortly after the report was released, noting he was contacted during the reporting process.
“It’s just the structure, the governance structure, isn’t right,” said McCallum, noting the mayor does not vote as board chair unless it’s a tie.
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