McCallum, board chair, told fellow board members he believes there’s a “conflict of interest” in being both mayor and the chair, particularly when it comes time to talk about municipal and policing budgets.
“I do honestly believe there is inherent conflict,” McCallum said Wednesday.
If a municipality is going to change a police force, he added, change spearheaded by a mayor “has to be driven” from within council chambers, rather than from within a police board.
Calls for McCallum to resign from the police board post and as mayor have heightened as his public mischief case unfolds in court.
That charge stems from his September 2021 claim that a woman ran over his foot with her car at a Save-On-Foods parking lot. Police documents related to the case, recently unsealed in court, have questioned the credibility of that claim.
According to their authors, McCallum’s statements about being “pinned up against” his vehicle and “limping” after his foot was run over, are at odds with what appears in surveillance videos.
Under B.C.’s Police Act, the mayor of a council is the chair of the municipality’s police board. McCallum said that means he is unable to resign, but that his absence will allow the board to choose another chair.
“If the mayor is absent or unable to act, the municipal police board members present at a meeting of the municipal police board must elect from among themselves a chair to preside at the meeting,” reads the act.
The province’s Special Committee on Reforming the Police Act recently recommended all of B.C. move to a new provincial police service, governed by a new Community Safety and Policing Act, “while not allowing the mayor to serve as board chair.”
McCallum said Wednesday he agrees with that recommendation.
Several members of the Surrey Police Board thanked McCallum for his decision to be absent from the two scheduled meetings before the October vote.
Semiahoo First Nation Chief Harley Chappell acknowledged many conversations about conflict of interest have been had about the role, and said it takes a “big person” to step aside.
“I just want to thank you for making that choice. I know we’ve been through a rough road the past couple of years,” he said. “We’ve had our success and speed bumps along the way, but as we moved into the next piece I just really wanted to share our appreciation.”
“The board also recognizes the conflict of the role of mayor and the role of chair, and we appreciate you acting on what we collectively believe is the best interests of the board,” added vice-chair Cheney Cloke.
“We will continue to keep public safety in the City of Surrey our top priority.”
McCallum has been one of the most public-facing figures of Surrey’s controversial transition from the RCMP to the new municipal Surrey Police Service, having committed to it in his last election campaign.
McCallum said Wednesday the Surrey Police Service “cannot be reversed at this stage.” In his state of the city address that morning, he said 85 uniformed officers have already been deployed to work alongside the RCMP as part of the transition, and that will increase to 295 next year.
He also told reporters on Wednesday morning, he would not resign as mayor.