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Surrey mayor outlines next steps on 'imposed' police transition

Surrey mayor says process must be 'transparent and accountable'
Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke says the city is ready to move forward with the provincially legislated police transition. (Surrey Police Service patch from Twitter/Photo of Brenda Locke by Anna Burns)

The Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross identified the five stages of grief as denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. 

Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke appears to have reached Stage 5.

Locke says that while she's "disappointed" in Justice Kevin Loo's finding in May that favoured continuing the city's policing transition to replace the Surrey RCMP with the Surrey Police Service, as ordered by the provincial government, she conceded that "I accept the decision and we are moving forward with what the city needs to do the ensure that our residents are prioritized with the provincially-legislated police transition."

"I want to be very clear that I continue to believe that this NDP-imposed transition is not in the best interest of the residents or the taxpayers of the city of Surrey."

However, she added, the judicial review revealed "validating and concerning information that requires further and comprehensive review." 

Locke said a Deloitte Legal Canada LLP report done in April 2023 shows an annual cost difference of $75 million to operate the SPS compared to the RCMP and Loo in his reasons for judgment said that "regardless of the exact figures, it is clear that it will be more expensive for the city to transition to the SPS compared to maintaining the RCMP."

During her mayor's report, delivered at Monday's regular council meeting, Locke outlined the City of Surrey's next steps and priority actions related to the transition. 

"These cost differentials are significant and they must be addressed," she said. "Irrespective of the Province's legislation about policing in Surrey and their imposed target date for the SPS to take command of policing in the city by November 29, 2024 there still remains no confirmed plan to get there and no confirmed costing that the City can reasonably rely on for budgeting and fiscal management purposes."

Therefore, she's asked city manager Rob Costanzo to assemble a team of experts to work with the provincial and federal governments, SPS and its board and the RCMP on planning requirements.

"This work will focus on understanding the progress to date and to ensure that the requirements and best interest of the city are at the table to ensure the policing model and cost implications addresses Surrey's needs."

Locke said the City of Surrey will "immediately" review the Deloitte report and ask the provincial government "to cooperate with us to finally determine the actual cost of the imposition of this decision."

"Moving forward, it is critical that the process be transparent and accountable to the public and the City. During the entire six-year process the previous mayor, the Surrey Police Board and the Province has withheld information by way of private meetings, non-disclosure agreements and without-prejudice negotiations," Locke said. "These backroom arrangements must and will stop today."

She said there will be a transition update prior to all regularly scheduled public hearings starting in September, in the form of corporate reports and time for council members to seek clarifications. 

"Finally, I understand that residents are fatigued by all the political positioning that has ensued about this transition. I am fatigued too," Locke remarked. "The Province cannot simply make a decision about policing at the 10,000-foot level and then wash their hands of it. Their actions and their decisions have gotten us here today. No plans, no confirmed costs. So I want to be very clear we are at the very infancy stages of this transition in terms of planning and confirming proper costing for taxpayers."

Locke said the entire controversy surrounding Surrey's policing transition could have been avoided had there been a "proper process from the very beginning, and the previous council just terribly, terribly dropped the ball for the residents of our city."

The mayor said time is "of the essence" as the Oct. 19 provincial election draws closer and council will work over the summer break to make sure the process is expedited, "and if I have to call meetings, I will, and I expect the Province, the Surrey Police Service and their executive and the Surrey Police Board will do likewise."

Last month, Locke said a city budget review related to the cost of the transition will be done in September, prior to the provincial election. 

Meantime, Surrey NDP MLA incumbents seeking re-election on Oct. 19 have indicated to the Now-Leader they don't expect the city's policing transition controversy to play a big role during the campaign.



About the Author: Tom Zytaruk

I write unvarnished opinion columns and unbiased news reports for the Surrey Now-Leader.
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