Surrey councillors blast `scary' police transition
Letters sent to leaders around province warn of high costs and danger to public
Surrey's transition from the RCMP to a local police force will affect the budgets and staffs of municipalities throughout Metro Vancouver and beyond, a pair of Surrey councillors warned.
Brenda Locke and Jack Hundial, both opposed to their city's shift from the RCMP, have sent a pair of letters in recent weeks to local leaders around the province, alerting them to their concerns and warning them that a proper feasibility study has never been done during a process they say was rushed.
Surrey's transition may seem like a local matter, but it will affect public safety across the province, Locke said Tuesday.
“This is actually quite scary. This is public safety. To me, there are two (key) things: public safety and public health. And you better have smart people in the room directing how that's going to work. We don't have that right now and we haven't had that for some time. This is being driven by the mayor's office in Surrey,” Locke said.
Communications staff in the mayor's office directed a request for comment to the Surrey Police Service.
Sharlene Brooks, a spokeswoman with the SPS, said the number of officers in B.C. will not change as a result of the transition, but there will likely be a redistribution of officers between police departments.
Brooks said the province is monitoring for any potential impacts the transition would have on the region, and said the SPS and Victoria “agree on the philosophy of ensuring the transition is done right, not fast.”
Locke and Hundial's letter from Feb. 15 warned municipalities policed by the RCMP that administrative costs for the force will be redistributed among the remaining RCMP jurisdictions. Also, the SPS will seek to recruit experienced officers from nearby municipalities, they said.
The councillors' second letter, sent March 1, included correspondence from the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor-General obtained through a freedom-of-information request that said the establishment of the SPS was ambitious but achievable if risks were addressed and managed.
But Hundial and Locke said they believed “a business analysis of the impact to policing in the region and across B.C.,” as raised in the correspondence, hadn't been done, and they said the impact on First Nations and urban Indigenous communities hadn't been considered.
Hundial said the intention of the councillors' letters was not so much about putting the brakes on the transition, as it was about bringing transparency to the matter.
When asked recently about the number of people from various forces who had applied for a job with the SPS, Norm Lipinski, chief constable of the SPS, said the service had received applications “from all agencies,” but he didn't offer any numbers.
“So I've spoken to each of the chiefs in the Lower Mainland individually. And ... my discussions with them is that, if there is a large segment of their agency that is applying, and that looks very positive to be Surrey Police Service members, that I will let them know. … We're going to ensure that public safety is taken care of and is not compromised,” Lipinski said.