Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum poses with an example of a Surrey Police cruiser after his State of the City Address at Civic Hotel. (File photo)

Surrey will replace its RCMP force with municipal police, province confirms

City of Surrey has been authorized to set up its own city police force

It’s hello Surrey Police, goodbye Surrey RCMP.

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum said Canada’s largest RCMP detachment has served the city well over the years.

“The reason we’re changing is our growth has taken us beyond the ability of the RCMP to do this,” he said.

Surrey is Canada’s largest city to not have its own police force, at least until now.

The provincial government announced Thursday morning that the City of Surrey has been authorized to set up its own city police force but no timeline has yet been provided for when the new force will begin patrolling the city’s streets.

Wally Oppal, who was put in charge of overseeing the transition plan, said Solicitor General Mike Farnworth under Section 23 of the Police Act “has authorized and sanctioned the City of Surrey to establish its own police force. The mayor will make the formal announcement later on this morning.”

At Surrey council’s inaugural meeting on Nov. 5th, 2018 it served notice to the provincial and federal governments it is ending its contract with the RCMP – which has policed these parts since May 1, 1951 – to set up its own force.

Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth on Aug. 22, 2019 gave the city the go-ahead to pursue the plan. Last November Mayor Doug McCallum said Surrey Police officers could be patrolling alongside the Surrey RCMP by next summer, despite there being no agreement in place to see this happen. Oppal said that timeline is “ambitious,” but McCallum stuck to that date Thursday.

McCallum held a press conference at 10 a.m., at city hall.

“This is the final step to guarantee that we will now have our Surrey Police Department,” he said. “In just over one year, we moved from a unanimous council motion to full reality on our promise to deliver to the citizens of Surrey a city police department. With Minister Farnworth’s final approval to establish the Surrey Police Board, today marks day one for the Surrey Police Department.”

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As for the cost, McCallum says the salary gap between the RCMP and the new city police will be “only a few per cent” because of the RCMP unionizing. ‬He said police officers have already been applying from Calgary, Edmonton, Ontario and the Maritimes. “People want to live here,” he said.

“The time has come, and some would say it’s been long overdue, for Surrey to have a police force of its own where accountability begins and stays within our city,” McCallum said. “Local responsibility, priorities and oversight will reside within the Surrey Police Board, which will be comprised of ourt most qualified. City staff will be working diligently with the province to put the Surrey Police Board in place. I look forward to beginning the work with my fellow Board members to bring Surrey Police to full operational strength.”

Said McCallum, “Our residents are very happy that we have our own Surrey police department.”

The Now-Leader is seeking reaction from Assistant Commissioner Brian Edwards, who took over command of the Surrey RCMP on Jan. 6.

“We’re still taking it all in,” said Constable Richard Wright, a media liaison officer with the detachment.

READ ALSO: Wally Oppal says policing ‘too important’ to be left to the police

READ ALSO: Surrey RCMP boss Brian Edwards on moving forward, and what keeps him awake at night

READ ALSO: Surrey’s new top cop doesn’t believe residents have lost faith in the RCMP

Terry Waterhouse, general manager in charge of the policing transition for the City of Surrey, said on the issues of pensions and collective agreements, that a pension transfer agreement is in place with the RCMP which allows Mounties, upon being hired by the new Surrey Police, to apply to transfer their pension into the pension plan all officers of municipal police are members of.

“We have established that the salary and benefits will be in keeping with other B.C. municipal departments,” Waterhouse said. “We also have a process in place to support municipal employees’ transition into the new structure.”

Waterhouse said once the police board is set up, it will be presented with a detailed recruitment plan that outlines the process to recruit a chief constable and executive team, as well as police officers.

“While there will be a number of previously experienced officers hired by the Surrey Police department, there also will be new recruits,” Waterhouse said. “We’ve been working with the Justice Institute of B.C., where the B.C. police academy is housed, to ensure they can accommodate ongoing increases in recruit training that will result from the establishment of the Surrey Police department.”

Asked what will happen to the current officer in charge of the Surrey RCMP, Waterhouse replied, “I would suggest that’s a question separate for the RCMP.”

Will the new police force occupy the Surrey RCMP detachment buildings in Newton?

”Those plans will be worked out,” Waterhouse said.

Lisa Anderson, assistant deputy minister for the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, said in coming days the ministry will work with the Crown agency and Board Resourcing Office to post the notice for positions of the new police board for Surrey.

“There will be a vetting process by ministry staff,” she said. “They will conduct interviews as part of that process and then the short list will move forward to the Director of Police Services for interviews that she will conduct. Following that there will be police record checks.”

Board appointments are done by an Order in Council by the Lieutenant Governor. The board’s primary responsibilities, Anderson explained, include “being the employer” of all police and civilian employees of the Surrey Police, financial oversight, establishing policies and providing direction for the department. “As well, they manage any policy or service complaints against the department.”

There can be a maximum of nine appointees, she said. “The chair is the mayor of the municipality, and then the city council is able to elect one member and provide that recommendation to the minister. The remaining positions will be filled through the appointment process as recommended by the minister.”

Anderson said that for the “initial function” of the police board the province will appoint five members. “So the police board in Surrey, when it first commences, will have seven members “with consideration to add the remaining to positions at a future point in time, a necessary.”

– With files by Lauren Collins



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

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