Surrey residents angered by lack of information on police transition as public consultation starts

Click to play video: 'Surrey residents get first chance to comment on city police force' Surrey residents get first chance to comment on city police force
WATCH: As Surrey residents get their first chance to weigh in on a new city police force to replace the RCMP, one of the big questions is how much it will cost. Jill Bennett reports – May 23, 2019

The mood was confused and angry at the first public consultation event for Surrey’s new municipal police force Thursday.

Dozens of residents flocked to the Cloverdale Recreation Centre to get a first look at the ideas being put forth for the new force and tell the city what they’re looking for.

But the talk quickly turned to two chief concerns: how much the switch from the RCMP will cost taxpayers and how little say the public is actually getting.

WATCH: Surrey begins public consultation into new police force

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Surrey begins public consultation into new police force – May 23, 2019

“It’s awful the citizens of Surrey have no idea what this is going to entail,” one resident told Global News.

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“I’m concerned about costs, and I’m concerned about what exactly is it going to give us over and above what the RCMP does,” another said.

READ MORE: Surrey begins public engagement on proposed new police force

Former RCMP officer Roger Morrow said he was also concerned about the potential cost of the transition, which other former police officers have said could well exceed estimates of $120 million.

“It’s going to impact the city taxpayer profoundly,” Morrow said. “For the mayor to suggest, or if he continues to suggest it’s only going to cost the taxpayer a little more, I think is folly.”

The consultation session — the first of more than a dozen events planned for the coming weeks — featured liaisons who answered questions along with posters that included crime statistics, a partial timeline on the transition and a list of benefits for moving to a municipal force.

WATCH: (Aired May 7) Surrey mayor gets mixed reaction for prototype police car

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Surrey mayor gets mixed reaction for prototype police car – May 7, 2019

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There were also several stations where residents could submit their feedback and hopes for the new force.

But none of those posters or representatives had the specific details that are likely outlined in the transition report, which was delivered to city council and the province this week — but not to the public.

Resident Donna Morse said the fact that the public hasn’t seen the report before the province makes any public consultation useless.

READ MORE: B.C. premier takes aim at Surrey mayor as report on municipal police transition nears

“I don’t feel the municipal government has been forthright and honest with providing any information to the citizens of Surrey,” she said.

Coun. Linda Annis, the city’s sole opposition councillor, said she and her fellow members were only given an hour to read the report, which is reportedly more than 200 pages.

She called the details in the document “shocking” earlier Thursday, and said as much at the event itself.

READ MORE: Surrey mayor releases more information about new Surrey Police Department

“The cost absolutely concerns me,” she said. “We had the Vancouver Police Department develop our model for us … but we’re 85 per cent the size of Vancouver population-wise.

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“So if you do the math, we need roughly 300 more members, and that’s not going to come cheaply.”

Three other city councillors made it to the event, but Mayor Doug McCallum was nowhere to be found. A spokesperson for the city said the mayor was unable to attend.

McCallum ran largely on a promise to switch from the RCMP to a civic police force during the October municipal election, and while his supporters say he won the election because of that pledge, many at the event brought up the need for a referendum.

“The people of Surrey should get to vote on this situation, hands down,” one person said.

Terry Waterhouse, the general manager of the transition, said “there has never been any talk about a referendum.”

READ MORE: Surrey opposition councillor says she’s been ‘shut out’ of police transition process

At an event elsewhere in Surrey Thursday, Premier John Horgan said it’s up to Solicitor General Mike Farnworth to review the report and approve the transition.

“We now have a report, I don’t know what’s in it, I don’t think the people of Surrey know what’s in it, and so we’ll just have to see how the consultation unfolds,” Horgan said.

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Annis said the province could also make a recommendation for a referendum, or release the report to the public themselves.

WATCH: (Aired April 10) City of Surrey lays out plans for police force transition

Click to play video: 'City of Surrey lays out plans for police force transition' City of Surrey lays out plans for police force transition
City of Surrey lays out plans for police force transition – Apr 10, 2019

As people left the event, they were asked to visit three kiosks and hit one of four buttons with different moods in response to specific statements: “I had an opportunity to share my ideas,” “I like the look of the new Surrey Police brand,” and “I feel more informed about the transition to the Surrey Police Department.”

Residents said they felt largely negative on all three points, particularly whether they felt more informed.

“There’s no public consultation here,” one person said.

—With files from Robyn Crawford and Jill Bennett


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