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Surrey, B.C., plan to switch to municipal force from RCMP gets preliminary nod

The Canadian Press logoThe Canadian Press 2019-08-22
a close up of Wally Oppal © Provided by Canadian Press Enterprises Inc

SURREY, B.C. — The Vancouver-area city of Surrey, home to Canada's largest RCMP detachment, has been given provincial approval to begin a transition to a municipal police department.

British Columbia Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth has given the approval for the work to get underway.

Farnworth says a team has been formed between the city and the province to ensure key issues of the transition are addressed, and it will be up to that team to determine if the switch can be done by 2021.

Former B.C. Court of Appeal justice Wally Oppal has been named chair.

Farnworth says Oppal will advise the province's director of police services about issues relating to the switch.

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum successfully campaigned on a promise to replace the RCMP with an independent force and last month announced a separate municipal committee to manage the proposal.

A report released by the city in June estimated the operating cost for a municipal police force would be $192.5 million dollars in 2021,— about 11 per cent more than the current RCMP contract — and would fund 805 officers.

An RCMP spokeswoman has said the Surrey detachment has 843 officers, a number McCallum disputes.

Surrey's report was compiled by Simon Fraser University criminology professor Curt Griffiths, along with representatives from the cities of Vancouver and Surrey, as well as the Vancouver Police Department.

It finds the move to a municipal force would also require one-time capital and transition costs of $39.2 million to cover administration, recruiting, equipment and other details. It says the costs could be spread over four years at about $10 million annually.

Farnworth says the province will fund the team examining the split, but Surrey taxpayers would have to pay any other costs related to the transition and funding of a municipal department. 

Surrey Coun. Linda Annis, the lone representative of Surrey First and one of four council members opposed to the mayor's methods of proceeding with the independent police force, says in a statement that Surrey residents should have a say in the switch. 

"Good policing isn't about changing badges or the colour of the uniforms, it's about having the right plan and knowing the details, including the costs," Annis says.

She says it's disappointing that the province has not requested some sort of referendum, but she is hopeful Oppal's task force "will provide some mechanism for Surrey voters and taxpayers to be heard in a serious way."

The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version identified Annis as a member of the Safe Surrey Coalition.

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