Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke lays down sword in battle to keep RCMP

Mayor Locke says she continues to believe the “NDP-imposed” transition isn’t in the best interest of Surrey residents, and the province should pay for increased costs for the new Surrey Police Service

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Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke, who has been embroiled in a more than 18-month bitter fight with the B.C. government to keep the RCMP in the province’s second largest city, has capitulated.

On Monday, during a public city council meeting, Locke said she accepts a recent B.C. Supreme Court decision that rejected the city’s attempt to overturn the B.C. government’s decision to force a continued transition to the Surrey Police Service.

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“We are moving forward with what the city needs to do to ensure that our residents are prioritized with a provincially legislated police transition,” Locke said in a 10-minute statement that she read out at the meeting.

Her decision comes just less than three weeks after the court ruling.

Asked Tuesday for more information about the decision, including whether it meant the city had decided not to appeal the court ruling or whether the city will put together a new budget for the SPS, the mayor’s office said the only statement Locke will be making was the one on Monday night. In that statement, Locke stressed she continues to believe the “NDP-imposed” transition isn’t in the best interest of the residents and taxpayers of Surrey, and the province should pay any additional costs.

To that end, Locke laid out several steps Monday that the city will take to determine how much more the municipal force will cost compared with the RCMP, including reviewing a B.C. government-commissioned analysis produced more than a year ago by accounting firm Deloitte. That analysis showed that if both forces had 734 officers, the SPS would cost $30 million more a year than the RCMP, about a 15 per cent cost increase.

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Locke has repeatedly pointed to a difference of $75 million from the Deloitte report, but that compares an SPS force of 900 officers to an RCMP force of 734 officers, not an apples-to-apples comparison. The Deloitte analysis also doesn’t include a recent eight per cent wage increase for Mounties that brings their pay scale in line with municipal forces such as the SPS.

On Monday, Locke said she would also be asking Surrey’s city manager to assemble a team of experts to work with the province, federal government, the SPS, the Surrey police board and the RCMP on planning requirements. She wants to understand the progress to date on the transition and ensure the policing model and costs address Surrey’s needs.

Locke said that beginning in September progress on the transition will be reported at each council meeting where councillors will have a chance to ask questions.

On Tuesday, B.C. Ministry of Public Safety officials could not immediately say whether the mayor’s statement and decision had been communicated to the province.

However, B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth welcomed the news.

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“The people of Surrey want this transition to be over. There has always been a spot at the table for the City of Surrey and I am glad to have them join in completing this transition to the Surrey Police Service,” said Farnworth.

The Surrey police board and the SPS said they hadn’t received any communication yet from the city or council on its decision.

“I expect we will soon and we are looking forward to working with the city again moving forward,” said Melissa Granum, executive director of the police board.

SPS spokesman Ian MacDonald added: “We remain optimistic that with everybody working together, we can expedite the transition to save costs and to assure public safety for the citizens of Surrey.”

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To date, the SPS has hired 367 police officers and 60 civilian support staff. On Tuesday, several more SPS officers were assigned to street policing.

The B.C. government has set Nov. 29 has the target date for the SPS to take over command for policing in Surrey from the RCMP.

Locke and her majority council have been fighting the move to the new municipal force, a decision of the previous council under then-Mayor Doug McCallum, since their election in October 2022. The province determined that the transition should continue in the interests of public safety and passed legislation last year to mandate the move.

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Hamish Telford, an associate professor of political science at the University of the Fraser Valley, said it appeared that Locke had come to the realization that she can’t stop the transition to the municipal force a lot later than others had. Still, he said, it was hard to believe given her long and entrenched fight.

Telford said that Locke has little leverage anymore to secure aid from the province. But he observed: “If the provincial government has underestimated the costs of this transition and its beyond the capacity of Surrey to pay for it, then something will have to be worked out.”

Locke and her council earlier rejected a package of up to $250 million in funding over 10 years, although the province has said $150 million of that is still available.

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