Surrey targets April 2021 start date for police force, city says in transition plan
Would mean fewer staff than budgeted under the RCMP, but Surrey says would result in more frontline officers
The City of Surrey is proposing an April 1, 2021 start date for an independent police force.
The city made the announcement in the release of its long-anticipated transition plan detailing what a new policing model for the municipality would look like.
The report says a force would cost $192.5 million in 2021 — a 10.9 per cent increase over the projected costs of keeping the RCMP — and would have 805 police officers and 20 "Community Safety Personnel".
Currently, Surrey RCMP have an authorized strength of 843 police officers. The city says there are 51 vacancies — but the RCMP says all of those jobs are being backfilled with staff provided by the RCMP.
Creating an independent police force and terminating the policing contract with the RCMP was a main campaign promise of Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum in last October's election. The city is the largest in Canada under RCMP jurisdiction.
The report must be approved by the provincial government before the city can begin the transition. In a statement, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth said "we are in the process of analyzing the details within Surrey's report and will not be commenting on the individual elements at this time."
The full report can be found here.
Campaign promises vs. reality
During the 2018 election campaign, McCallum promised that Surrey would have its own police force within two years, and last month he said he expected the force would be up and running by July 2020.
The report does not say why additional time is needed but states "the comprehensive analysis established that a transition from contracted policing to municipal policing is viable within the proposed timeline" and says accepting applications for staff will begin in 2020.
McCallum also said a police force would cost Surrey taxpayers slightly more but argued the RCMP would likely increase wages in future years, negating the difference — an assumption the report also makes.
In addition, McCallum campaigned extensively on the benefits of moving to an independent police force, he made no guarantees it would result in an increase in officers.
While Surrey would have less overall police officers than currently budgeted, the report states an independent force would have 16 per cent more frontline patrol officers but a direct comparison to current RCMP staffing levels was not made available.
Frontline vs. behind the scenes
Though exact comparisons to the status quo were unavailable, McCallum focused on the benefits that would come with more frontline officers.
"I'm more concerned that we get more feet on the ground out in public, so the public can see our police working in their communities and living in our communities and working with our communities," he said.
"That's far more important to our residents than having management sit behind a desk and never get out and patrol our streets or talk to our residents."
That sentiment was echoed by Gurpreet Sahota, co-founder of the anti-crime group Wake Up Surrey.
"We're all happy, because they're promising more boots on the street and more officers in the schools," he said.
Linda Annis, the lone city councillor not elected with McCallum's Safe Surrey Coalition, argued a change to an independent force needed to approved directly by voters.
"The report to the provincial government reflects no public input, and I think Surrey taxpayers and voters will be perplexed by the reduced number of officers," she said.
"The proposed Surrey Police Department is a major change and any final plans must be voted on by the taxpayers of Surrey."