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SPS officers could make up over half of Surrey police by end of 2024: Administrator

Click to play video: 'Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth announces suspension of Surrey Police Board'
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth announces suspension of Surrey Police Board
B.C. Public Safety Minister and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth announced he suspended the current Surrey Police Board members and replaced them with former Abbotsford Police Chief Mike Serr, who will act as an administrator. – Nov 16, 2023

Officers with Surrey’s fledgling municipal police force could outnumber their RCMP counterparts by the end of next year, according to the administrator appointed to replace the Surrey Police Board.

British Columbia’s solicitor general suspended the police board’s membership and replaced them with former Abbotsford police chief Mike Serr earlier this month, saying the city’s controversial police transition had become bogged down.

In his first media appearance Thursday, Serr said he had great respect for the board members and hoped they could be back to their duties “as soon as possible.”

He went on to say he had signed off on a draft police budget for 2024, produced with the help of third-party accounting firm Deloitte and police transition Strategic Implementation Advisor Jessica MacDonald.

Click to play video: 'B.C.’s two largest cities facing huge cost increases'
B.C.’s two largest cities facing huge cost increases

That document was being forwarded to Surrey mayor and council Thursday, he said, and was “carefully developed in alignment with the City of Surrey 2023 to 2027 financial plan.”

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Serr said the budget lays out a path for the Surrey Police Service (SPS), which currently makes up about a quarter of officers patrolling the streets, to hire another 180 officers by the end of 2024.

“This will bring the blended service to over 50 per cent SPS by the end of 2024,” he said.

Click to play video: 'Surrey mayor doubles down on fight against police transition'
Surrey mayor doubles down on fight against police transition

Serr said he has also offered to hold a full technical briefing with mayor and councillors, and was in the process of scheduling a meeting with Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke in the “very near future.”

The policing budget has not been made public, and Serr said he wouldn’t go into details until council had been able to review it.

“I recognize there has been confusion over the actual costs of the transition and the overall costs of the Surrey Police Service moving forward,” Serr said.

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“It is my hope that a transparent budget process will give clarity and comfort to the residents and businesses of Surrey.”

Solicitor General Mike Farnworth passed legislation this fall to force Surrey to complete its transition from the RCMP to the Surrey Police Service, despite opposition from Locke and a majority on council.

Click to play video: 'Surrey mayor, business leaders speak out against province’s latest move in police transition battle'
Surrey mayor, business leaders speak out against province’s latest move in police transition battle

Locke was elected on a promise to undo the transition, which began under former mayor Doug McCallum, and has initiated a court challenge for the province’s order that the city complete the switch.

According to the city’s petition to the court, the police transition will cost Surrey an additional $464 million more over 10 years than keeping the RCMP.

The province has offered the city $150 million to help defray costs.

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As of September, the Surrey Police Board said the SPS had hired 400 sworn and civilian staff, and deployed more than 200 officers.

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