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Mayor frustrated by B.C's 'unfair' request for more info on Surrey policing shift

VICTORIA — The mayor of Surrey, B.C., says the province is being "unfair" by requesting more information before it decides on the city's plan to revert to the RCMP as its police force.
Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth speaks to media in Victoria, B.C., on Monday February 5, 2018. British Columbia's public safety minister says his government needs to know more before it decides on the "unprecedented" request to reverse a change from municipal policing in Surrey in a decision that affects the whole province.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

VICTORIA — The mayor of Surrey, B.C., says the province is being "unfair" by requesting more information before it decides on the city's plan to revert to the RCMP as its police force.

Brenda Locke said provincial bureaucrats were "overplaying their hand" by delaying the decision, after Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth announced Thursday that the director of police services wanted more details from those involved in the "unprecedented" request.

Locke said the request was frustrating, but the city will "get them every answer that we possibly can" to questions about Surrey's plan to scrap an ongoing transition to a new municipal force, and instead stick with the RCMP.

Farnworth told media at the B.C. legislature that the policing transition in Surrey is complex, involving the largest RCMP detachment in Canada, and the plans require in-depth analysis before a decision is made that affects the whole province.

"Surrey made the decision to move to a municipal police force, Surrey’s making a decision to move back to the RCMP. My role as minister is to ensure that there is a proper and safe plan to do that, and that means ensuring safe and adequate and effective policing, not just in Surrey, but in the region and the province."

Locke responded to the announcement with a statement saying, "the province needs to do the right thing and confirm the city has the right to this decision."

The mayor said at a news conference that "people that are in Victoria are trying to tell Surrey how to police their city, and that is a concern."

The RCMP are the police of jurisdiction in Surrey, Locke said.

"They are now, and they are moving forward."

Locke said delaying the decision is unfair to police officers and their families and affects the city's ability to work on its budget for this year.

The province's request for more information came as a surprise, she added, because city officials had been expecting a decision by the end of this month.

The city and the RCMP submitted plans that clearly and thoroughly provided "all the necessary details" to demonstrate their ability to keep the Mounties "in a more cost-effective and timely way" than continuing the transition, her statement said.

The transition to municipal policing was thrown into disarray by Locke's election last fall, after she campaigned on maintaining the RCMP. Her defeated predecessor, Doug McCallum, had initiated the previous plan to create a municipal force.

The new Surrey city council voted in December to send a plan to Farnworth requesting to keep the RCMP, saying it would save $235 million over five years.

The Surrey Police Service followed up with its own report calling on Farnworth to reject that plan, saying halting the transition would mean firing 375 employees, dissolving two police unions and accepting "unrecoverable" costs of $107 million.

Locke said Thursday there is "absolutely no question" that maintaining the RCMP as Surrey's police force is the best answer for taxpayers in the city.

"This is not a good year to be going into raising taxes. I don't want to do that."

Farnworth said his staff reviewed submissions from the City of Surrey, the Surrey RCMP and the Surrey Police Service to identify gaps and determine the accuracy of factors, including costs and human resources.

The request for the city and RCMP to provide more information includes questions about the number of employees required to "re-staff" the detachment and around the potential "demobilization" of the municipal force, the minister said.

"I would like to see it done as expeditiously as possible," he said of the analysis.

"But also, it needs to be thorough."

A lot of work has been done to get the Surrey Police Service to where it is today, he said, and halting the transition "isn't just like switching on a light."

He said it was "critically important" for his ministry to thoroughly examine the multiple plans and reports.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2023.

The Canadian Press

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