Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum says it’s a “great and historic day” as it was announced the city’s police transition plan was approved by the provincial government.
McCallum held a press conference at city hall Thursday (Aug. 22) to discuss the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth giving the green light to Surrey’s policing plan.
McCallum said the announcement “makes it clear that the solicitor general understands and is willing to respond to the needs of Surrey residents.”
“For nine months, the city has been working in co-operating with the solicitor general and his team to get the green light to establish the Surrey Police Department and today we have it.”
A joint statement from Farnworth and McCallum says the minister gave the approval required to establish Surrey’s municipal police department.
“To ensure all key issues are addressed and all complex details are in place to facilitate an orderly transition, a joint project team has been struck,” the statement says. “The joint transition committee, chaired by the Hon. Wally Oppal, will work expeditiously to provide advice to the Director of Police Services through to the Solicitor General relating to the establishment of Surrey’s municipal police department.”
McCallum said he is “confident” that the joint committee will help to build a “world-leading police department that is equipped and ready to proactively respond to the realities of our dynamic city.”
As for the timeline of having the municipal police force up and running by 2021, McCallum said one of the things the committee will be looking at is seeing if that can still be accomplished. He said in discussions he’s been told the process can be sped up, “so that we can get it sooner rather than later.”
“You can’t predict what comes up in that time, but we’re confident that we’ll up very close to that date,” he said.
McCallum said the committee will be addressing “probably six or seven items” in the initial report that need to be worked on, such as information technology. He said the city needs to not only work with the province, but the federal government as well.
The next step, McCallum said, is setting up a police board and the first item of the board would be to hire a police chief. He said board would be established by end of this year or early 2020.
Asked if he could promise that the city would not raise taxes with the transition, McCallum said Safe Surrey Coalition made a commitment.
“That was that we will not increase property taxes any more than the consumer price index. This year was 2.9 per cent, and that’s what the taxes went up this year,” said McCallum, adding that council will “stand by” that.
During a separate news conference, Farnworth said the transition is an “iterative process that requires substantial work that will proceed in phases.”
“As this work progresses, and prior to any decision being made on any future phases of the process, public safety will remain a priority. It is essential that adequate and effective policing is maintained throughout the transition and beyond.”
He said the joint committee will “deal with every single question” that relates to the policing transition. The committee, Farnworth said, “will work to ensure all key issues are addressed and all complete details are considered in the transition plan.”
Farnworth said while there has been “a lot of good work done” by provincial and municipal staff,” there is “a lot more work to be done.”
Asked if he thinks the transition will be completed by 2021, Farnworth said “that’s the work that the committee has to undertake.”
McCallum calls it a great and historic day with the municipal police force getting the green light. #Surreybc
— Lauren Collins (@laurenpcollins1) August 22, 2019