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Surrey police: Mayor vows to keep RCMP, citing lack of detail on B.C.’s position

Click to play video: 'War of words continues between city and province over Surrey policing'
War of words continues between city and province over Surrey policing
WATCH: The war of words between the City of Surrey and the B.C. government over policing continues, with Surrey saying it's waiting for more information from the province, and the province saying the ball is in Surrey's court. Janet Brown reports – May 9, 2023

More than a week after a recommendation against keeping the RCMP in Surrey, the city’s mayor remains steadfast in her resolve to do so, citing a lack of “new news” from the province.

Brenda Locke said Tuesday her council has still not received the unredacted report outlining the B.C. government’s position on the hotly-debated police transition. The municipality also hasn’t received a “stitch of paper” outlining the province’s offer of financial support if Surrey backtracks on the RCMP and adopts the Surrey Police Service (SPS) as its police of jurisdiction, she added.

“I’m really disappointed that Minister (Mike) Farnworth would negotiate dollars in the media … and then not back it up with anything,” she told Global News.

“I do know now that there is nothing to back that money up. There is no Treasury Board approval for that money, so there it’s really nonsensical for us to even consider that because we haven’t had one stitch of paper, as I’ve told you. We’ve had no indication that that money is real.”

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Surrey ethics commissioner reviewing complaint against councillor

On April 28, Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth released the government’s much-anticipated take on Surrey’s policing debacle. Citing a lack of RCMP officers and recruiting challenges throughout the province, he recommended Surrey’s mayor and council return to their predecessor’s plan and complete the transition to a municipal police force.

Farnworth said B.C. would support the costs of the transition, which are estimated to be roughly $235 million, plus $30 million more per year than the RCMP would cost.

The minister told Global News on Tuesday afternoon that his staff have been consistently in touch with municipal staff in Surrey. Locke and her councillors will receive the unredacted report as soon as the City of Surrey signs the necessary nondisclosure agreement, he said.

Later in the day, Locke said she just learned about the nondisclosure agreement.

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Click to play video: 'RCMP advisory report shows staffing concerns'
RCMP advisory report shows staffing concerns

Farnworth said he didn’t think there has been a “breakdown” in communications between his office and Surrey city staff. He further said he has been “very upfront” about the province’s intention to support Surrey financially if it chooses the SPS.

While Locke has been in touched with Premier David Eby, she said she has not been direct communication with Farnworth, adding “nothing’s changed,” and Surrey has “no reason to move back” to the SPS.

“We’re just moving ahead with the RCMP because that’s what we said we were going to do in December,” she said. “In reviewing the report that we have, the very redacted report, we see all kinds of flaws in that report.”

The City of Surrey has retained lawyer and former RCMP deputy commissioner Peter German to help it navigate the path forward, Locke added.

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Click to play video: 'Surrey mayor says response to policing report will take time'
Surrey mayor says response to policing report will take time

A recommendation on the police transition from B.C.’s director of police services said the SPS would need to hire at least 400 more officers to meet the city’s policing needs. The province’s Policing and Security Branch also estimated it could take three years for the SPS to hire enough officers to act as a “standalone” police force, without destabilizing policing services in the city.

By contrast, the recommendation states that the RCMP needs a minimum of 734 officers to meet Surrey’s needs, and if it remains the police of jurisdiction, will need to hire at least 161 additional officers. The Surrey RCMP have lost about 140 members since the SPS kicked off.

In its submissions to the provincial government, the recommendation said the municipality failed to include sufficient detail on how the SPS would be dissolved and what the human resources impact would be, leading the director of police services to conclude that it likely underestimated the costs of a complete reversal to keep the RCMP.

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The report to Farnworth also found that the City of Surrey did not identify strategies to make sure the SPS remained intact as it completed its transition back to the RCMP, meaning that if SPS officers quit or took leave, it could leave a problematic void in policing services in Surrey.

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B.C. premier weighs in on Surrey policing controversy

Locke said Tuesday that the RCMP has provided “very good service” to Surrey for more than 70 years, while Surrey doesn’t know “what the SPS can do.” She thinks the SPS may need to hire as many as 800 new officers to meet the city’s needs.

Farnworth said he expects to sit down with Locke ahead of a June 5 council meeting and expects mayor and council will have received the unredacted report by then,.

“They will be able to have the discussion that they need to have internally in their council, and we are ready to be sitting down with them in terms of talking, what is on the table in terms of moving forward,” he said. “We all want this resolved.”

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