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2021 start date for Surrey Police Department ‘a bit ambitious’ says transition committee chair

Click to play video: 'Wally Oppal updates RCMP transition' Wally Oppal updates RCMP transition
Surrey residents are given an eye opening update on the state of the city's transition from RCMP to a municipal police force. Aaron McArthur explains – Feb 26, 2020

The chair of a committee set up to oversee Surrey’s transition from the RCMP to a municipal police force says hopes of having the new department set up by 2021 “might be a bit ambitious.”

Wally Oppal made the remarks at an event hosted by the Surrey Board of Trade Wednesday.

READ MORE: Chair of police transition committee disputes Surrey mayor’s timeline for final report

The former attorney general and judge said once the province gives its final sign-off on the transition, Surrey will still need to form a police board, hire a chief and conduct recruitment.

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‘Keep the RCMP in Surrey’ petition – Feb 1, 2020

“All that takes time. You want to make sure that whatever is done is done the right way and correctly and according to standards,” he said.

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“I’d say you’re probably looking at a good two years.”

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Oppal recently completed a 450-page report for Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth on the pros and cons of a transition to a municipal force.

“I gave the advantages and disadvantages of having your own police force and I think the major advantage is local accountability, as opposed to having a police force that’s governed from Ottawa,” he said.

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“The disadvantage is that you don’t have that national presence that the RCMP can bring, and the RCMP has expertise in conducting complex investigations, but the start up may be challenging.”

Oppal acknowledged that he doesn’t know what the final cost of the transition will be.

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READ MORE: Surrey’s top cop says divisive new budget will have ‘detrimental effect’ on policing

That cost question has been one of the key criticisms of the transition, and one Surrey Coun. Jack Hundial says is top of mind.

“People are concerned, there’s only so many ways to raise money in the City of Surrey. You can increase taxes or you can start selling off assets,” he said.

Oppal’s report is now in the hands of Farnworth, who still needs to make an ultimate decision on the transition.

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