As promised, Mayor Doug McCallum and the new Surrey council have passed a motion to pull out of the RCMP contract and “immediately create a Surrey Police Department,” just minutes after taking the Oath of Office Monday night.
McCallum’s Safe Surrey Coalition, which holds eight of nine seats on Surrey council, tabled and passed the motion at a Nov. 5 meeting immediately following their swearing-in ceremony at city hall.
Surrey First’s Linda Annis, the lone councillor not on McCallum’s slate, also supported the unanimous resolution, saying she would “like to support Mayor McCallum and council as this is one of their major platform issues.”
The move was a promise of McCallum and his team along the campaign trail, which have vowed to introduce a municipal force in the city.
“What city council has done is immediately deliver on the wishes of the people of Surrey,” said Mayor Doug McCallum.
“It was very clear to me that with all the people I spoke to and heard from that SkyTrain and Surrey establishing its own municipal police force are what is best for our city. As the elected representatives of the citizens of Surrey, we are delivering not just what we promised to do, but we are acting on what the people have said would be best for their city.”
"Tonight's a new era in the City of #SurreyBC" says Mayor Doug McCallum in his inaugural address. He says the team will fulfill their campaign promises, including bringing SkyTrain extension in, and introducing a municipal force. https://t.co/HT5U4UuvYD pic.twitter.com/DtB407dS5n— Surrey Now-Leader (@SurreyNowLeader) November 6, 2018
McCallum said Surrey has “outgrown the RCMP,” and estimated the city would have its own municipal force in two years.
He also provided some cost estimates.
McCallum told reporters that a local force will cost an average of $13 million more per year than RCMP, but he says city will save $20 million on this administration costs.
So, he says, “we will come out on the positive.” But, he couched that comment by saying he’s a “realist” and there will likely be other costs.
During a media scrum after the meeting concluded, McCallum said he’s met with B.C.’s Solicitor General Mike Farnworth and described their discussion as “frank” and “firm.”
McCallum read an agreed-upon statement on Farnworth’s behalf, which said he would “accept the City of Surrey wants their own police force, therefore I’ve instructed my staff to work with the City of Surrey staff as they create their transition plan and I am looking forward to receiving it.”
McCallum said that process has already begun and that the “commitment of both the provincial and the federal government is of co-operation with our city as we move forward.”
Before the vote to pull out of the RCMP contract, Councillor Doug Elford said while he has the utmost respect for RCMP officers, he believes it’s “time for a change in our policing model” and that “the community and neighbourhoods have spoken and they tell me they want a safer and more livable community.”
Elford said his vision is “to make Surrey the safest city in Canada.”
Councillor Steven Pettigrew said “we need to take our city back” and this is just one of many steps the newly elected council will take.
Following the vote, Surrey RCMP’s Officer in Charge said he’s “disappointed” in the motion, but that it was expected.
“This is a business decision or a political decision,” said Assistant Commissioner Dwayne McDonald. “You can’t take this personally as an officer. Am I disappointed, personally, yes I am because I think as I’ve said already we provide excellent service and I think our statistics back that up. The declining crime trends that you see, and the significant impact we’ve had on public safety, a lot of the programs we’ve done whether it’s cleaning up 135A, whether it’s our gang enforcement teams, our proactive youth engagement, our community engagement, our diversity, all of those I think are highlights of what a professional police service would provide.”
Asked how he feels about McCallum’s assertion the city has outgrown the RCMP, McDonald said the two “don’t see eye-to-eye on that.”
“I would respectfully disagree with that,” he replied. “We’ll work hand-in-hand with mayor and council to ensure their public safety initiatives are put forth… But I would say when you compare the Surrey RCMP with other large municipal police agencies in terms of number and budget, you’re not going to beat us in terms of getting bang for your buck.”
In the meantime, as Surrey transitions to a municipal force, McDonald said he wants to “reassure the citizens of Surrey that we will continue to provide top notch policing, and that public safety is our number one priority.”
Surrey’s contract with the RCMP, which runs Canada’s largest detachment, was set to expire in 2032 but carried with it a clause that the city can opt out within two years’ notice.
Under the contract, Surrey pays 90 per cent of the RCMP’s cost and the federal government is responsible for 10 per cent. With a new city police force, the city would have to cover the entire cost.
During the election campaign, the Now-Leader asked McCallum how he would achieve that.
“We would re-adjust our budget to cover that,” McCallum told reporter Tom Zytaruk.
On the matter of taxation — everyone’s favourite subject — McCallum said, “We’re going to really look at the finances, because I don’t think they’re in very good shape, at least looking at their balance sheets, they’re not in very good shape.
“We also announced that we would hold any increases, if we need them, that we would hold any increases to the Consumer Price Index. That will be the maximum that we would go to, if we have to go to.”
-With files from Tom Zytaruk