The National Police Federation is “raising concerns” that B.C. taxpayers will be “on the hook” for another $1.4 million to pay for an “unpopular and expensive” Surrey Police Service that may not be up and running for another four years.
The NFP issued a press release Wednesday raising concerns that the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner told a Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services on Tuesday that it needs $1.4 million more this year to hire and train analysts to handle an “anticipated volume” of new complaints related to the Surrey Police Service, which is to replace the Surrey RCMP.
Brian Sauvé, president of the NFP, noted that there are no such provincial costs for the Surrey RCMP as complaints aimed at the detachment are handled under federal funding.
“This expense is yet another example of the rapidly and continually escalating cost of Surrey’s police transition,” Sauvé said. “These are real and tangible costs, not just for Surrey residents, but for all British Columbia taxpayers. It’s time for Mayor McCallum and his majority on Council to finally address the total cost of this expensive transition.”
The Now-Leader has reached out to McCallum for comment but has not yet heard from him.
Sauvé noted that McCallum said earlier that the SPD would be operating by April 1, 2021. The mayor told the Now-Leader in October 2019 that SPS officers could be patrolling alongside Surrey Mounties by mid-2020, which didn’t happen.
“There is still time to stop this transition, before the costs and taxes to cover them keep rising, and direct these significant funds to more urgent initiatives, including support for those who need it,” Sauvé said.
The NPF press release indicated Surrey-Cloverdale NDP MLA Mike Starchuk said at the legislative committee meeting he didn’t expect the SPS to be operational for another four years, that “there’s not going to be 800 members in this next fiscal year,” and “it will probably be four years or so before they do that migration.”
Starchuk told the Now-Leader on Wednesday that’s “pretty close” to what he said. “The order in which those words were said, they’re not linear as to how I spoke.”
Starchuk said the committee was told the OPCC needs $1.48 million to take care of the police commissioner complaints. “They figured it out that Surrey will be, based on the numbers, about 45 per cent of the current workload that they have and so my questions were do we need to spend all that money right now when there’s only four employees, and as far as I know it could take up to four years to migrate to a fully functional municipal police department idea,” he said. “But, we don’t know. Like, nobody’s told us inside of the planning part.”
“From my perspective, it was an unexpected number because I had never heard of how the province and the way the police complaint commissioner works and how its budget works, so it was news to me.”
“From my perspective,” he said, “it was all about how the government is spending their money in the time of a pandemic.”
Meantime, Surrey city Councillor Linda Annis says “police costs under Doug McCallum are going to be a big surprise to taxpayers and definitely way more than his promised 10 per cent.
“When that happens,” she adds, “he’ll only have two ways to pay the bill: higher and higher taxes for both residents and businesses, or selling off city owned lands to pay the real costs he’s incurred.”
Annis said she doesn’t think anyone knows the real timeline.
“Right now we know it’s not going to be happening under what the mayor’s original schedule was. He wanted it done by April of 2021 and clearly that’s not happening. I don’t think there’s a real sense of how long it will be but it certainly won’t be happening in the foreseeable future,” she said. “There’s been no members hired, there’s been no training in place, there’s no real infrastructure in place, there’s so much work to be done.
“I don’t think anyone has a real grasp on the timeline,” Annis said.