The Surrey Police Board has officially approved the creation of the Surrey Police Service.
In its first meeting Thursday (Aug. 6), the nine-member board approved a motion to establish a municipal police department, known as the Surrey Police Service, “to provide policing and law enforcement in the City of Surrey.”
The board also passed a motion to request the RCMP recognize SPS as a “category 1 police agency in the National Police Information Service network” and for the city to start applications for the department to be connected to the network.
In addition, the board also approved members to the governance, human resources and finance committees.
Terry Waterhouse, the general manager of the policing transition, also gave a presentation on the transition to date.
As for the “category 1 status,” a report to the board from Waterhouse states the Provincial Municipal Policing Transition Study Committee report recommended the board “move expeditiously to establish the appropriate approvals for the SPS to connect to and integrate with mandatory integrated policing technology systems.”
Those systems would include the National Police Information Service, Police Records Information Management of B.C., the Justice Information Network of B.C. and the Emergency Communications of B.C.
Waterhouse was asked what the timeline would be for being recognized, which he said was “hard to predict exactly.”
He said the last time was for the Metro Vancouver Transit Police, which was “relatively quickly,” but he hasn’t yet found an exact time.
“This is the backbone of the IT system … it’s hard to predict exactly how long it would take,” said Waterhouse, adding that this was why this motion was included in the first meeting, so staff could start the process “right away.”
The talk of transparency also came up.
Board member and Semiahmoo First Nation Chief Harley Chappell asked about the cost, or fees, for the transition.
“I know there’s going to be a substantial transition cost,” said Chappell, asking if there could be a side-by-side cost between municipal and RCMP forces and then the transition.
He said he was asking in the “consistency of transparency.”
Waterhouse said that information was in the city’s five-year financial plan and it is “all public information.”
In a follow-up press conference later that day, Chappell was asked if he had a concern about the costs and if he’s heard from constituents.
He said there has been a lot of information through media and different sources, adding that he was looking for clarification and trying to share that with the public.
Also during the conference, board member Jaspreet Sunner addressed concerns about creating a new police service amid the Black Lives Matter movement, which has some calling to defund police forces.
Sunner said with everything going on locally, nationally and internationally with BLM, the Surrey Police Service is a “good opportunity” to build a police service, not a force.
She said the board will be looking at these calls “in order to see how our funding should be allocated” and to make sure the “necessary training” is given to allow for the best service possible.
Meantime, the National Police Federation’s president released a statement Thursday morning ahead of the board meeting.
Brian Sauvé said the lack of transparency, real costs and timing are the key issues for the meeting.
“After months of uncertainty perpetuated by Mayor McCallum’s evasive tactics, we expect the new Surrey Police Board to provide information on real and hidden financial and social costs of this expensive and secretive plan,” he said. “As the public body accountable to residents of Surrey on matters of policing, these issues are critical to residents of Surrey, and our 850 Members serving in Surrey.”
Sauvé added that, like most municipalities across the country, Surrey is facing financial hardships due to COVID-19.
“This is being exacerbated by this unnecessary and unwelcome transition resulting in cuts to public services and infrastructure,” he noted. “The Board, which is a body with a legal fiduciary duty to the residents of Surrey, must consider the impact of these fiscal challenges and cuts on vulnerable citizens and the broader community, as well as the knock-on effect to public safety and policing.”
Councillor Linda Annis said in an emailed statement prior to the meeting that the police board is “no substitute for a referendum that gives the people of Surrey the final say who will police our city.”
“The transition budget tops $129 million, money we don’t have, and a police force that more and more residents don’t want,” Annis said.
“Board members can see the frustration right across the community in the lawn signs going up across the city and the nearly 50,000 signatures on the petition supporting the RCMP. To ignore the community is completely tone deaf and no way to start a city police force.”
One of the next steps for the police force is to “start immediately” in the next week in the search for a police chief, said board chair and Mayor Doug McCallum.
“Once that police chief is in place, we will also at the same time start recruiting some deputy chiefs for the force,” said McCallum, adding they will then look for recruits.
“We are starting right away. There is an urgency to move forward.”