B.C. moves alone on Surrey Police Service after mayor, council refuse to leave RCMP

B.C. moves alone on Surrey Police Service after mayor, council refuse to leave RCMP © Provided by The Canadian Press

SURREY, B.C. — British Columbia is moving ahead with the transition to an independent police service in Surrey after the mayor and council refused to part ways with the RCMP.

Solicitor General Mike Farnworth says a plan is in place for the continued transition to the independent Surrey Police Service, and he’ll release more details next week on how that will work.

It comes after the province offered another $100 million to Surrey on top of the $150 million originally offered for added costs for the independent police service, but that was rejected by the mayor and council.

Surrey city council released its budget on Tuesday, saying that if it was forced to move away from the Mounties, the added cost would be half a billion dollars over the next decade.

Mayor Brenda Locke, who was elected on a promise to reverse the transition and go back to the RCMP, says in a statement that the dispute is about the city’s ability to choose its policing model, and voters have chosen the RCMP as its municipal police force.

Farnworth says he’s disappointed with the city’s position, because the people of Surrey want an end to this and the government negotiated in good faith a reasonable offer that has been rejected.

“That being said, the transition will continue … regardless of the judicial review that is underway and what we intended to do is that $150 million will go directly to ensuring the safe transition to the Surrey Police Service,” he says.

Farnworth says it’s unfortunate the needs of the people of Surrey don’t appear to be the priority for the city.

Surrey is challenging the provincial government order in B.C. Supreme Court, saying in a petition that the change in the Police Act by the government is unconstitutional because it places limits on voters’ freedom of expression.

Surrey Coun. Linda Annis says in a statement that Locke’s decision to turn down $250 million in government transition funding is a “serious slap in the face” for Surrey taxpayers, and a reminder that the transition has become about political ego, rather than city policing.

Farnworth says the added $100 million is no longer on the table, but the $150 million would be used to continue the transition.

Locke says despite being more than five years into the transition, the province refuses to agree to a number of commitments that are their responsibility to ensure a “safe, efficient and economical” policing transition.

She says some examples include the province’s refusal to commit to a completion date for the transition and its failure to develop a plan or model for the new police force.

“As I’ve said all along, I will stand up for the best interests of our taxpayers,” Locke says. “It’s important that the public have all the details, and hear the truth, and I’m glad all will be revealed as court proceedings begin on April 29.”

Annis says the police issue is “holding city hall hostage” with every other issue before it “on hold” unless the transition moves forward.

“Mayor Locke has demonstrated over and over that she is only interested in obstructing the transition, which now includes rejecting millions in funding from the provincial government, and an ongoing court case,” says Annis, who is on a separate political slate than the mayor.

Farnworth says he expects the citizens of Surrey will be asking the council a lot of questions about why it’s walking away from the assistance the province has offered to avoid tax increases.

The city budget proposes a property tax increase of seven per cent, which would include the additional hiring of 26 RCMP officers.

Locke said in a statement earlier Tuesday that the budget includes funding for a minimum of 785 RCMP officers, to ensure adequate and effective policing for Surrey.

“The fact is, the Surrey Police Service is eating into our ability to deliver new projects. However, our focus has always been Surrey residents and we will provide our citizens with the improvement and amenities they deserve.”

Locke says the terms of the Surrey Police Service mandate two officers in each vehicle, meaning the city would have to hire at least 200 more officers.

“This council has resolved to stay with the Surrey RCMP. If we are mandated to continue with the police transition, we are facing an increased cost of half a billion dollars or more over the next decade, compared to the costs of the Surrey RCMP,” the statement says.

Source: The Canadian Press