‘It’s not money well spent’: Surrey police transition taking too long, councillor says

A Surrey city councillor says the city’s transition to a municipal police force is taking too long, and taxpayers are the ones on the hook. Angela Bower reports.

A Surrey city councillor says the city’s transition to a municipal police force is taking too long — and taxpayers are the ones on the hook.

In July, the B.C. government decided that Surrey must move from the RCMP to the Surrey Police Service (SPS)  — ending a years-long back and forth that began under the tenure of then-Mayor Doug McCallum.

Current Mayor Brenda Locke wasn’t happy about Solicitor General Mike Farnworth’s direction. Coun. Linda Annis says it feels like the city is “dragging our feet” in moving forward.

“It’s time to move on and develop the best police force that we can possibly develop, and time is of the essence. As the mayor has said, each month, it costs the taxpayers $8 million,” she told CityNews.

“Each and every day that we delay moving forward with the Surrey Police Service is costing the taxpayers $266,000 each and every day. It’s not money well spent — we need to get on with this and get the transition moving forward.”

Annis is asking the province to step in to help get things moving, adding, “quite frankly, we need to be at the table and moving this forward as quickly as possible.”

“It may not be the decision that the mayor wanted, I understand that completely, but the decision has been made and now it’s time to move on,” Annis continued.

According to the councillor, several steps still need to be taken, including agreements that need to be implemented, the discussion of a budget, and a hiring plan.

In August, a special council meeting was held in Surrey, though the specifics of what was discussed remain unclear. Previously, it was suggested by sources that council was discussing “next steps” in the transition, though councillors declined to comment after the in-camera discussion.

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City council is set to get a look at a new report Monday on how the police transition is going.

Meanwhile, in his announcement in July, Farnworth warned that sticking with the RCMP could cause a “crisis in policing” south of the Fraser River.

“People’s safety, in Surrey and across the province, is non-negotiable. The city has failed to meet the requirements I placed to prevent a situation where there are not enough police officers to keep people safe in Surrey,” he said in announcing his decision on July 19.

“We cannot allow people in Surrey or in other communities to be put at risk. British Columbians need to know that when they call the police, help will come — and people in Surrey want this uncertainty over who will police their city to end, and to know that they will be safe in their community.”

On Monday, the Surrey Police Service announced it had “officially welcomed seven new Recruit Constables” to the agency, noting this is the “fifth group of recruits to begin their policing careers with SPS.”

These recruits will now start their training at the Justice Institute of British Columbia.

“SPS’s Recruit Constable program is highly competitive with just 52 selected to-date from more than 1,500 applications,” the department said.

Locke responds to Annis: ‘It is not as easy as she may think it is’

In an interview with OMNI News on Monday, Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke said that she wouldn’t respond to Annis’ criticism, but still had words for the councillor.

“She needs to do her own due diligence, she needs to talk to the staff, she needs to understand the process, she needs to understand this isn’t strictly a Surrey issue,” Locke said.

“It is not as easy as she may think it is, but she needs to do her own due diligence.”

Locke acknowledged the stalled transition has been costly to Surrey taxpayers, but says the issue is out of her hands.

“The cost to Surrey taxpayers is very very concerning. We are burning through $8 million a month and that is absolutely unnecessary and a problem. But moving forward, we need to see the plan. We need to see some of the information from the province. We have yet to see that,” she said.

“It’s important that people understand that this is not a unilateral decision. This is a decision that is made by … the federal government and the provincial government. And the biggest components are really the province and the feds when it comes to the contractual agreements. We haven’t seen any of that information.”

Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke commenting on the slow-moving police transition on Sept. 11, 2023

Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke commenting on the slow-moving police transition on Sept. 11, 2023. (OMNI News)

The mayor says she’s written six letters to various stakeholders at the provincial level asking for an update on the transition.

“We haven’t received one stick of paper back from any of those queries. We need to get information back from the province so we can move forward,” she said.

“It is extraordinarily disrespectful by the government not to respond to the second-largest city in the province. It is also a sign that they are not acting in good faith, in my opinion.”

It’s not the first time Locke has directed her ire toward the provincial government during the policing saga. Earlier this year, she called Solicitor General Mike Farnworth a “bully” and “misogynist.”

She maintains that without being able to see the province’s plan for the police transition, Surrey will remain in limbo.

“Right now, they are the ones holding the cards. We can’t move until we get that information from them,” Locke said.

With files from OMNI News

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