Surrey Council Votes To Keep The RCMP as Police of Jurisdiction “Behind Closed Doors”


SURREY: Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke announced in a press conference on Friday that the City Council has voted to keep the RCMP as the police of jurisdiction for the city of Surrey. The press conference followed a two-hour closed meeting held at the City Hall on Thursday.
She started by thanking RCMP and SPS for serving the city. “I want to thank each and every one of them. They are all welcome to continue policing in Surrey.”
“I also know that both RCMP and Surrey Police Service members deserve a final answer so they can turn the page on uncertainty and focus on their future and careers. Today they will have clarity. But the return to normalcy will take time, commitment and professionalism.”
Then she announced that the Surrey City Council has voted to retain the RCMP is Surrey. “There is no question that the decision on policing rests with Surrey Council. The Premier and the Solicitor General have confirmed that fact.”
The announcement muzzled not only city councillors but also media, since a vote on policing was not expected this soon. A number of incidents before and after put a question mark on City’s transparency related to policing decision.
According to City Councillor Linda Annis, the councillors were informed about in-camera meeting in a rush. The in-camera meeting means councillors cannot talk about any of the details, or even say how they voted.
“The in-camera meeting meant there was absolutely no transparency around this incredibly important issue,” Annis said. “Councillors were only told late Wednesday about the in-camera meeting, when we were handed a 400-page city staff report and given only hours to read it. No transparency, no community involvement, no agreement between the city and the province on the facts. It was followed by yesterday’s rushed in-camera meeting that muzzled all of us who were there.”
An argument between a reporter and Mayor’s communications person also followed. The news conference was brief and not enough time was given to reporters to ask questions. A reporter intervened and called it “unacceptable”. After which Mayor decided to answer few more questions.
The public safety minister Mike Farnworth had also written a stern letter to Surrey Mayor about city staff not disclosing information on the final report, based on which the city council would vote. According to Farnworth, it was important for the minister officials to review the policing report prepared by the city staff before the council gives its mandate.
However, it seems like the voting was done without sharing complete information with the province. “We know the province wanted to make sure the facts in the report were accurate, and that had no opportunity to happen. When it comes to policing and the police transition, we did it all wrong, and our taxpayers are on the hook to pay the bill with nothing to show for it,” Annis said.
Although according to the City’s mayor the decision is final. She referred to policing Act according to which she said the final decision of policing rests with the city. But the saga of the beleaguered police transition seems far from over. The province has not yet approved the plan voted on and whether it meets the conditions imposed by the province.
Although Mayor Locke sounded confident that BC’s Premier and the Public Safety Minister would cooperate on this decision. She said that she spoke to the ministers. However, her call was before the final vote.
Minister Farnworth said in the letter that in order for Council to make the most informed decision, it is imperative that the report prepared for Council consideration meets all associated requirements on timelines, costs and implications for each condition.
“I am concerned that should Council vote on a plan that does not adequately address the mandatory and binding conditions on the transition, this already precarious situation could become further destabilized in an expedited timeline. This could create a policing crisis which puts into question safe and effective policing in the City of Surrey.”
The cost of rolling the transition back, dissolution of SPS, province’s response, are still to be announced.