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Surrey Police Service to take over from RCMP in November: Farnworth

Click to play video: 'Date announced for transitioning of Surrey municipal force'
Date announced for transitioning of Surrey municipal force
WATCH: The Surrey Police Service will become the force of record on November 29. At that point, municipal police will once again be in charge of Surrey streets almost 75 years after the local council disbanded its former force – Apr 23, 2024

The province has set the date for when the Surrey Police Service (SPS) will take over from the Surrey RCMP.

Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth announced Tuesday the SPS will become the police of jurisdiction on Nov. 29, 2024.

“Today, we have reached a major milestone in this transition journey,” Farnworth said. “This date was identified after careful consideration of public safety, the progress completed to date and the significant work currently underway to finalize the transition.”

Farnworth said the full transition is expected to take between two- and two-and-a-half years, and that the Surrey RCMP will continue to provide support until it is complete.

Click to play video: 'Public safety minister announces date for Surrey Police Service to assume command'
Public safety minister announces date for Surrey Police Service to assume command

SPS Chief Const. Norm Lipinski called Tuesday’s announcement “very exciting.”

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“We have been preparing for this date for over three years, and we continue to work diligently to ensure SPS is prepared to transition into this role,” he said.

Click to play video: 'B.C. public safety minister says Ottawa on board with Surrey police transition'
B.C. public safety minister says Ottawa on board with Surrey police transition

The fight between the province and the City of Surrey over the transition has been long and fierce.

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Less than two weeks ago, an internal memo obtained by Global News revealed a lack of an agreement for Mounties to work under a municipal police service. In Tuesday’s announcement, Farnworth said the agreed-upon transition path would not require legislative changes.

“The agreed-upon pathway is consistent with the existing legislative framework, and can occur in a way that will not require RCMP to delegate their authority or be under the command of another police agency,” Farnworth said, adding the two agencies will work together under a “collaborative arrangement.”

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How exactly the SPS will move from providing support to RCMP to taking the lead and receiving support from Mounties will be finalized ahead of Nov. 29, the minister said.

RCMP Deputy Commissioner Dwayne McDonald said his team is “committed to working closely with the government of British Columbia, Public Safety Canada, the Surrey Police Service and the City of Surrey as we identify and advance the necessary work to reach this next milestone in November.”

Farnworth says the city is required to maintain 834 officers so as new SPS officers are hired, current RCMP officers will be redeployed.

The SPS currently has 428 staff, including 367 sworn officers and 61 civilian employees.

Click to play video: 'Leaked Surrey RCMP memo disputes B.C. public safety minister'
Leaked Surrey RCMP memo disputes B.C. public safety minister

Earlier this month, the City of Surrey rejected a $250-million deal with the province to help offset the costs of the transition and spare property owners from tax hikes associated with the switch.

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Farnworth has reiterated the transition will continue regardless, with $150 million of provincial funding going to cover transition costs.

However, the legal battle is just heating up. Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke’s legal challenge to the transition is headed to court at the end of April.

In a statement issued Tuesday afternoon, Locke called the announcement an “aspirational date” and “another desperate attempt by the province to demonstrate some kind of progress on this issue, mere days before the matter is heard in court.”

“Despite the claims of transition progress over the last five years, substantial plans for this transition have never been completed,” the statement reads.

She also criticized what she calls a lack of details of how the Nov. 29 deadline will be met.

Locke, who was elected in 2022 on a platform to scrap the transition, took aim at the province in a statement following the approval of the city’s 2024 budget Monday evening.

“The fact is, Surrey Police Service is putting a financial strain on our ability to deliver new projects,” Locke said.

The mayor claims that if the city is mandated to move ahead with the transition, it will cost an additional half a billion dollars over the next decade compared to keeping the RCMP.

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Click to play video: 'Surrey rejects provincial funding for SPS'
Surrey rejects provincial funding for SPS

The Surrey Board of Trade expressed its disappointment with Tuesday’s announcement in a press release, saying it believes the transition is rushed, jeopardizes public safety and overlooks potential funding issues which could result in higher taxes for local businesses.

“The Surrey Board of Trade finds great concerns with the lack of transparency in the entire process,” board president and CEO Anita Huberman wrote.

The board urged the province to stop the transition and keep the RCMP.

– With files from Simon Little and Janet Brown

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