Surrey’s incoming mayor promised to scrap municipal police force. What happens now?

Click to play video: 'Questions around cost, future of policing in Surrey'
Questions around cost, future of policing in Surrey
Surrey mayor-elect Brenda Locke plans on keeping her promise to stop the transition to a municipal police force. She claims it would be too costly for taxpayers, but as Catherine Urquhart reports, the Surrey Police Service says reverting back to the RCMP would cost residents even more – Oct 17, 2022

Surrey mayor-elect Brenda Locke is doubling down on her promise scrap the city’s incoming municipal police force and keep the RCMP after her election win Saturday night.

But the Surrey Police Board, union and the province’s solicitor general say it won’t be easy, citing millions of dollars already spent on the transition and collective agreements that would add a layer of complexity to the process.

Click to play video: 'Impact of Surrey vote on Surrey Police Service’s future'
Impact of Surrey vote on Surrey Police Service’s future

Read more: Police transition away from RCMP still underway in Surrey: board

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“It’s not even a reversing of the transition, the transition has never happened,” Surrey mayor-elect Brenda Locke said the morning after her election victory.

“The police of jurisdiction in Surrey is the RCMP, that will remain and we will move forward in that vein.”

Click to play video: 'Newly elected mayor talks about future of Surrey policing'
Newly elected mayor talks about future of Surrey policing

Outgoing Surrey mayor Doug McCallum, who spent four years spearheading the transition, said he doesn’t believe Locke has the power to undo his work.

“I’m not sure she can [or] if council can, that decision rests with the provincial government,” McCallum said.

The Surrey Police Board says it has invited Locke to meet, in hopes of briefing her on what has already transpired as part of the transition.

Read more: It’s a lock: Brenda Locke defeats Doug McCallum to become new mayor of Surrey

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“We plan to … update her on where we are with the transition, where we are with our I.T. infrastructure, to show her the diversity of our staff, the 350 staff that we now have working for us,” Surrey Police Board executive director Melissa Granum said.

She added that much of the more than $63-million allocated to the city’s transition from the RCMP to the Surrey Police Service has already been spent.

“We’ve already invested in I.T., all of the money associated with building internal infrastructure around our recruiting programs … and also the collective agreement with Surrey Police Union around termination of members, it would be extraordinarily expensive to walk that back,” she said.

“We are so far along this project and we’re very close to being at a place where we can transition to being the police of jurisdiction … If Surrey Police [Board] could move at the speed it wanted to, we’d be done in the next year.”
Click to play video: 'Surrey Police Service liaison on the cost to dismantle force'
Surrey Police Service liaison on the cost to dismantle force

Meanwhile, the Surrey Police Union is arguing the officers already hired for the new municipal force won’t be able to transition into the RCMP.

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“We have a collective agreement, we’re a certified union with the Labour Relations Board and to decertify an union is not a simple task, it’s quite a complex task,” Surrey Police Union treasurer Ryan Buhrig said.

“We have two different employers,” Buhrig added. “Our employer is the Surrey Police Board, its made up of citizens from Surrey appointed by the province, versus the federal government. There’s no mechanism just to bring municipal employees into becoming federal employees.”

Read more: An election, then a trial, poses unusual test for Surrey’s incumbent mayoral candidate

The province will have a big say in the final decision, but B.C.’s solicitor general says he’s not going to make up his mind until there’s a detailed plan presented to him.

“That’s why it’s crucial over the coming weeks while mayor-elect Locke gets briefed on it, that she understands that the City of Surrey will have to deal with all of those issues, such as the human resource side of things, the capital plan, how much a transition back is going to cost, and I believe that’s going to be laid out before the citizens of Surrey,” Farnworth said.

“It also has to meet my approval… my job as solicitor general is to ensure there is safe and effective policing in Surrey.”

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Locke says her team is planning a meeting with Farnworth — and that she’s already communicated with provincial and federal ministers to inform them of her plan.

“I have made Minister Farnworth more than aware of what would be happening if I was elected,” Locke said. “We have already done a lot of the financial analysis, so we know a lot of that. There will always be more to be researched — but we know, financially, (the transition) is not a healthy deal for Surrey.

Surrey RCMP declined Global News’ request for an interview and said it will have a statement on the matter in the coming days.

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