British Columbia

'Just a marketing idea': Consultation for new Surrey police force draws mixed reaction

The first community consultation on Surrey's policing transition took place Thursday afternoon at the Cloverdale Recreation Centre. What people really wanted were answers about how much the switch will cost taxpayers.

Some taxpayers want financial details; supporters stand firm

Surrey residents attended the first consultation event for the city's planned municipal police force Thursday. (CBC)

Many Surrey residents feel they're in the dark about the city's planned switch from the RCMP to a municipal police force.

The first community consultation on Surrey's policing transition took place Thursday afternoon at the Cloverdale Recreation Centre.

Curious people walked past displays with maps and information in the building's atrium. They were invited to write down questions and submit their ideas. The prospective force's signature SUV was in the parking lot as people walked in.

Members of the Surrey police engagement team were on hand to gather feedback, but what people really wanted were answers about how much the switch will cost taxpayers.

"It's just more broad questions," said Martin Hilmer of Cloverdale. "It would have been nice to see a comparison between the current RCMP budget and what the new budget would cost the city."

Many residents wanted more information on the costs of the new force. (CBC)

"There's a lot of anger going on here and the secrecy going on behind it," added Joseph Edwards, a retired 15-year veteran of the Surrey RCMP. "We don't think they are being truthful... Why is everything a secret?"

'This is just a marketing idea'

Details of Surrey's transition to its own police force are outlined in a report that has been seen by city council and delivered to the Solicitor General of B.C., Mike Farnworth

It's up to Farnworth to approve the plan and it's unclear when the report will be made public.

Coun. Linda Annis argues a true public consultation can't take place if people don't know the details of the report which she said was developed "in secrecy."

"There has been no consultation. This is just a marketing idea," Annis said. "There's nobody here that can really say anything. I can't talk about the report."

Terry Waterhouse, the city's general manager of policing transition, said information was being provided in good faith.

One city councillor decried the consultation process as "marketing." (CBC)

He said details from the report would be made public in due time, but all levels of government needed to discuss what should remain confidential.

"Significantly more information, certainly, will be made available to the public as we go forward," Waterhouse said.

Mayor campaigned on new force

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum made the idea of a new municipal police force a major plank of his 2018 election platform.

He has promised to deliver the new force on an ambitious timeline which some people at Thursday's event said they support. 

"Delta has way less serious crimes than we have… It is the effectiveness of Delta Police," said Tariq Ghuman, adding he believes fears over the transition's cost are overblown.

"People overwhelmingly voted for this mayor and council. People wanted Surrey's own police."

Many are looking to McCallum for answers, but he did not attend Thursday's event. 

With files from Meera Bains

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