British Columbia

B.C. government approves Surrey's plan to create its own police force

Province says it won't rush the transition from RCMP to a new local police force.

A joint Surrey-B.C. committee headed by Wally Oppal will oversee the transition

The City of Surrey has been pushing for its own police force to replace the RCMP, but required provincial government approval. (CBC)

The City of Surrey has been given the go-ahead to transition from RCMP jurisdiction to its own municipal police force.

The provincial government announced its approval Thursday morning in a joint statement with the city.

Former attorney general Wally Oppal will chair a committee — with representatives from both the city and province — that will "ensure all key issues are addressed and all complex details are in place to facilitate an orderly transition."

The city released its proposed transition report in June, but Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said a committee was needed to flesh out some of the details, including human resource and IT issues.

"There's been a lot of good work done, based on the plan Surrey has put forward, [but] there's a lot more work to be done, and that's why this committee has been struck," he said. 

 The committee will be funded by the province and no members have been named except Oppal. 

Start date?

The government's green light moves forward a key campaign promise of Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum to bring in an independent police force. The city is the largest in Canada under RCMP jurisdiction. 

But while Surrey's report had a proposed start date of April 1, 2021 for a new force — and McCallum promised that Surrey would have its own police force within two years — Farnworth said he wouldn't put a timeline on the committee's work.

"The committee will take the time required to do the job properly. We've asked them to work expeditiously," he said. 

However, Oppal said meeting the 2021 deadline is a priority for the committee.

"I'm sure that date was set with a lot of consultation, and that's what we'll be working towards," he said.

He said some of the biggest priorities for the committee are the establishment of a police board and a communication system with other police agencies in Metro Vancouver.

"People who commit crimes don't respect geographical boundaries," he said.

B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth speaks to reporters on Aug. 22, 2019 after announcing his approval of an independent police force for the City of Surrey. (Enzo Zanatta/CBC)

McCallum: 'great and historic day'  

At a press conference, McCallum was effusive of the province's decision. 

"Today is a great and historic day for the residents and businesses of Surrey," he said.

"I'm confident that together we will build a world-leading police department that is equipped and ready to proactively respond to the realities of our dynamic city."

Surrey's council voted unanimously in November to move toward an independent force, but in recent months a number of councillors have been critical about the process. They've said a new force may cost more than the 11 per cent increase from current policing costs projected by the city. 

But Farnworth said the province would respect the city's wishes. 

"We fully understand and respect concerns from everybody," he said.

"The City of Surrey has said they want to transition to a new model of policing. That's within their jurisdiction. What we want to do is make sure any transition that takes place is seamless and thorough." 

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