Surrey mayor says goal is to address police future ‘this month’

Click to play video: 'Mike Farnworth sends letter to Surrey council over policing indecision'
Mike Farnworth sends letter to Surrey council over policing indecision
WATCH: B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth has sent a strongly-worded letter to Surrey City Council, pressing it to make a decision on the transition from the RCMP to a municipal force. Richard Zussman reports. – Jun 1, 2023

Could the City of Surrey’s long and twisting policing saga reach its conclusion by the end of this month?

Given the game of political football Surrey’s police transition has become, that outcome seems unlikely.

But at a council meeting Monday, Brenda Locke appeared have a response to Solicitor General Mike Farnworth’s June 1 letter demanding the city “move forward with a vote” on whether to keep the RCMP or Surrey Police Service (SPS) as the force of jurisdiction.

Story continues below advertisement

“Staff are working hard to address a number of the questions posed by the solicitor general to provide a comprehensive corporate report for this council, all of this council, so we can make a final and informed decision,” Locke said in a prepared statement at Monday’s Surrey council meeting.

“My goal is to have this accomplished this month.”

Locke was elected on a promise to keep the RCMP in Surrey, and has shown no sign of backing down from that position since coming to power in October with a majority of seats on council.

In April, after his ministry reviewed the city’s plans to wind down the SPS, Farnworth “strongly recommended” the city keep the municipal force, warning a reversion to the RCMP would damage policing elsewhere in the province, and offered Surrey up to $150 million to defray the transition costs.

A confidential version of a report to that effect, penned by B.C.’s director of police services, was forwarded to council at the time. But in the June 1 letter, Farnworth said nearly half of council had yet to sign a non-disclosure agreement required to read it, and he pressed them to do so in order to understand “the full factual context of this decision, as well as its implications.”

Click to play video: 'Surrey Police service open letter on transition delays'
Surrey Police service open letter on transition delays

Farnworth’s letter also reminded Surrey council of mandatory conditions it must meet around staffing and recruiting if it intends to keep the RCMP.

Story continues below advertisement

In an interview with Global News last week, Locke refused to confirm whether she’d signed the agreement or not, and said her issue was with the fact that the full report was not available to the Surrey public.

“It is unfortunate that due diligence was not permitted to be done by the last mayor and his council at the beginning of the process some four and a half years ago,” Locke said Monday.

Click to play video: 'Confusion persists over Surrey policing recommendation'
Confusion persists over Surrey policing recommendation

“It is also important to note that the city has only had the unredacted report for less than two weeks while the province has taken over five months to provide us with the information.”

The transition to the SPS is already well underway with more than 400 officers and support staff on the payroll.

Its plan to eventually hire 734 officers is estimated to cost about $30 million more annually than the contact with the RCMP, but severance costs for SPS officers if the force was disbanded would cost about $72 million.

Story continues below advertisement

The RCMP currently has about 1,500 job vacancies throughout B.C.

Sponsored content