BC has removed civilian oversight of SPS: policing advisor
Posted November 17, 2023 10:09 pm.
Surrey’s policing advisor says the province has removed civilian oversight of the Surrey Police Service by temporarily suspending the police board and putting a former Abbotsford police chief in charge of the city’s policing transition.
As Peter German explains, this is a surprising move because the solicitor general is the one who appoints the police board, but “now he’s suspended his own police board.”
“This a governance mechanism — it’s all about civilian oversight of policing, that’s why you have police boards for municipal police departments,” he said.
“All of a sudden, that governance and civilian oversight, those checks and balances that come with our system, are gone.”
German says municipal police departments report to an appointed civilian board and a city’s mayor. In places with RCMP forces, they report to the mayor and council.
On Thursday, when Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth suspended the board, he said former Abbotsford Police Department chief Mike Serr will oversee Surrey’s transition from the RCMP to the SPS and take on all functions of the board chaired by Mayor Brenda Locke, who ran on a platform of keeping the RCMP.
“It’s time for a decision to be made by the minister to do whatever he needs to do to get this moving forward and I think choosing Mike Serr was an excellent choice. He comes with great credentials, he’s worked within the municipal police forces for many, many years. I think it’s a good choice,” Surrey City Councillor Linda Annis said.
Political Scientist Stewart Prest says it’s a dramatic move showing the province has lost patience with Surrey City Council’s handling of the controversial police transition.
“It is a different form of democratic accountability, and it is taking decisions out of the hands of local decision-makers. We do see, certainly, a tension there between accountability to the community, locally, and accountability to the province as a whole,” he said.
In October, the City of Surrey filed a Supreme Court petition challenging a provincial order to make Surrey continue with the police transition.
German says this latest move does not change the city’s lawsuit.
“The electors did not want this costly transition and that remains their position … nothing has changed.”