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Farnworth puts his foot down: Surrey will ditch the RCMP, proceed with Surrey Police Service

Click to play video: 'B.C. government directs City of Surrey to move forward with transition to SPS'
B.C. government directs City of Surrey to move forward with transition to SPS
WATCH: B.C.'s Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said Wednesday that the province is directing the City of Surrey to move forward with the transition to the Surrey Police Service. Farnworth said the city failed to meet all the public safety requirements. – Jul 19, 2023

After a significant review of policing in Surrey, the B.C. government is directing the City of Surrey to move forward with the Surrey Police Service.

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said Wednesday he has “carefully considered” the city’s corporate report on moving back to the Surrey RCMP and the city failed to demonstrate that moving back to the RCMP will be safe and not affect other communities throughout the province.

Click to play video: '‘This is the final decision’: Mike Farnworth on Surrey policing decision'
‘This is the final decision’: Mike Farnworth on Surrey policing decision

In April, the province imposed conditions on the city and Mayor Brenda Locke’s council including ensuring essential staffing levels were met.

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“People’s safety, in Surrey and across the province, is non-negotiable. The city has failed to meet the requirements I placed to prevent a situation where there are not enough police officers to keep people safe in Surrey,” Farnworth said.

“We cannot allow people in Surrey or in other communities to be put at risk.”

The province’s decision was made under Section 2 of the Police Act, which states the minister of public safety and solicitor general must ensure that adequate and effective law enforcement is maintained throughout the province.

The decision of policing is up to municipalities, but the province must ensure those decisions are made with public safety being considered.

Click to play video: '‘I think we can learn a lot from this Surrey Police Service transition’: Mike Farnworth'
‘I think we can learn a lot from this Surrey Police Service transition’: Mike Farnworth

Locke has repeatedly said she will consider legal options and not back down until the RCMP is approved in the community.

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In a statement Wednesday Locke said that Farnworth’s decision is “disappointing, misguided and based on inaccurate assumptions. What has occurred today is the undermining of a local government duly elected by its residents. The actions of the Solicitor General should serve as a warning to the autonomy of all municipalities in B.C.,” she said.

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Locke added that Farnworth’s delay to make this decision has now cost the city’s taxpayers more than $60 million.

She also said that Farnworth is being selective in his authority in the Police Act.
“In addition to his authority to ensure adequate and effective policing under Section 2, the municipality is given the authority under Section 3(2) to choose the model by which they will police their municipality,” Locke said.

She said she will be requesting a face-to-face meeting with Farnworth in the coming days.

The City of Surrey voted in secret in June to continue with the RCMP but the report submitted to the province was never made public.

Farnworth said Surrey would have pulled officers from other parts of the province in order to meet staffing gaps in the B.C.’s second-biggest city.

Based on documents provided by the city, the minister concluded that the city failed to meet the requirements to prevent an exodus of Surrey Police Service officers, or to staff up the Surrey RCMP without pulling RCMP officers from other communities.

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“The Surrey Police Service is the only path forward to ensuring the safety of the people of Surrey, as well as people across the province, and for putting in place the long-term, stable policing they need,” Farnworth said.

The province has recommitted to providing the city with $150 million to help offset the costs of moving forward with the Surrey Police Service so that costs are not passed on to residents and businesses.

Further, this summer the minister will begin consultation on legislation being considered for the fall to ensure that this type of situation never happens again.

The B.C. government commissioned an independent financial analysis that concluded the Surrey Police Service would cost approximately $30 million more per year than the RCMP. Farnworth said he expects the transition to take about three years.

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Locke, who was elected to council in 2018 as a part of former mayor Doug McCallum’s Safe Surrey Coalition, quit the party in 2019 claiming dysfunction on council and conflict over McCallum’s plan to drop the Surrey RCMP for a municipal police force.

One of her key election promises in 2022 was to scrap that transition.

Click to play video: 'Surrey Police Officers offered $10,000 to join RCMP'
Surrey Police Officers offered $10,000 to join RCMP

Farnworth said Wednesday he has appointed Jessica McDonald as the “strategic implementation advisor” for this transition.

“In this role, she will aid parties in meeting timelines, facilitate dispute resolution, and ensure effective communication and completion of the transition to the Surrey Police Service,” Farnworth said.

— with files from Elizabeth McSheffrey 

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