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Mayor says IHIT will remain in Surrey along with new police force, but it will cost more

The city unveiled what a Surrey police cruiser might look like.
The city unveiled what a Surrey police cruiser might look like. Chris Allard/Global News

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum says the city will still employ the services of the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) once its municipal police force is up and running.

But the move means the city will end up paying more for a homicide team it has been contracting for years.

The question of how homicide investigations will proceed under the new policing model has been up in the air ever since the city released its transition report in June.

Province takes over Surrey police plan
Province takes over Surrey police plan

Concerns have also increased as violence continues to plague the city. IHIT has been called to Surrey twice in the past two weeks, including for the discovery of two bodies in a home Friday morning.

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But McCallum said it will keep its contract with IHIT once the new municipal force is ready to go.

“We’re part of IHIT right now with the RCMP, so it would be the same type of system we’re in now,” he said Friday.

READ MORE: Surrey police transition report projects more than 10% rise in costs, no major officer increase

Surrey staying on with IHIT while setting up its own police force will come with a cost: while RCMP jurisdictions receive a federal subsidy for IHIT contracts, communities with their own police forces are on the hook for the entire bill.

In 2019, Surrey received $1.4 million for contracting IHIT through the RCMP. According to the city, that subsidy is expected to rise to $1.5 million in 2020.

That money comes in addition to a 10 per cent subsidy the city receives for contracting the RCMP for its policing services.

Surrey is one of 28 B.C. communities policed by the RCMP that contract IHIT. New Westminster, Port Moody, Abbotsford and West Vancouver — which all have their own police forces — also use IHIT.

RCMP & IHIT called out to separate Surrey crime scenes
RCMP & IHIT called out to separate Surrey crime scenes

Those 32 municipalities help fund the homicide team, while the rest of its funding comes from the federal government.

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The team, which was started in 2003 to help cut through jurisdictional red tape for highly complex investigations, employs 72 RCMP officers and eight more from the independently-policed communities.

McCallum has not said how many Surrey Police Department officers would be employed by IHIT after the transition.

READ MORE: New head of IHIT promises action on high-priority murder cases

Surrey’s police transition report says keeping IHIT would be the cheapest of three options for how to manage homicide investigations under the new police force.

The solution comes with an estimated $18.7-million price tag, the report says.

The other two options are for Surrey to create its own homicide unit, or to employ the Vancouver Police Department’s services.

Both of those options cost at least $4 million more than staying with IHIT, with the new homicide unit topping out at $23.2 million.

Surrey murder victim’s widow questions police plan
Surrey murder victim’s widow questions police plan

The report says Surrey’s policing costs would rise 10.9 per cent under the new municipal force.

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A provincial board chaired by former attorney general Wally Oppal is continuing to review the transition plan, which the B.C. government has green-lit contingent on Oppal’s recommendations.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth has previously said he respects Surrey’s decision to transition to a municipal force, but that the change would require “substantial work” and that the province would not sign off on the final plan until all safety concerns were addressed.

READ MORE: Province takes control of Surrey police transition while giving green light

The proposed transition has been highly controversial.

It was one of McCallum’s key campaign pledges last October, but has since faced backlash including an anti-transition petition that’s gathered more than 25,000 signatures.

Three Surrey city councillors have also left McCallum’s coalition this year over concerns associated with the transition.