Blue Line

B.C. government raises more questions over Surrey’s transition back to RCMP service

June 16, 2023  By The Canadian Press

June 16, 2023, Surrey, B.C. – The RCMP is on its way back as the police force in Metro Vancouver’s largest city, says Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke, but the province’s solicitor general says he’s not “satisfied” he has all information to confirm the decision.

Mike Farnworth said Friday changing police forces in B.C. is a two-step process, first Surrey council makes its decision to revert to the RCMP, then the government reviews the choice to ensure it provides safe and effective policing in the city.

Locke announced Friday that Surrey council had voted at a closed meeting to return to the RCMP, dropping the current independent Surrey Police Service.

Farnworth, who’s also B.C.’s public safety minister, set out guidelines in April for the Surrey council decision, raising concerns about safety and the RCMP’s 1,500 staffing vacancies. The government also offered $150 million to help the city transition to the local force, but no funding if it decided to stick with the Mounties.


“The City of Surrey gets to choose their police force, but my responsibility is the second part of that process, which is to ensure the safe and effective policing in the city of Surrey and the province and the requirements that I laid out a number of weeks ago are met,” Farnworth said at a news conference.

Farnworth said he is awaiting the delivery of an internal Surrey administration report that details the city’s process for returning to the RCMP before making an approval decision on council’s policing plan.

He said he and members of his ministry staff are prepared to sign a non-disclosure agreement with Surrey once they receive the report.

“I will be seeing the report,” said Farnworth, who would not say if he could impose a policing decision on Surrey. “What I will be looking for in the report is to see whether or not it addresses the requirements that I laid out a number of weeks ago if the City of Surrey wishes to return to the RCMP.”

Premier David Eby described the policing issue in Surrey as “a very delicate situation,” during an unrelated news conference at Prince George.

“I will certainly express some frustration that we are at this point and still do not have the information from the City of Surrey about how they are going to ensure that police service is provided to the people of Surrey during this transition,” he said.

The government recommended in April that the city continue with its transition to the independent Surrey Police Service and not return to the RCMP. The offer of $150 million over five years would have helped cover the city’s costs.

It also said it would not pay the estimated $72 million in severance for officers if the council decided to go back to the RCMP.

Locke, acknowledging the decision will cost the city “millions,” said she has spoken to Eby and Farnworth about the council’s answer.

“Surrey council and I want to stress the importance of working with the provincial government. It helps our city and it helps our province.”

She said Surrey council decided to retain the RCMP as the city’s police force, and “there is no question the decision on policing in Surrey rests with Surrey council, the premier and solicitor general have confirmed that fact.”

Locke said she couldn’t estimate the cost of the move back to the Mounties.

“It will obviously be millions, but we don’t know what those millions will look like,” she said.

The mayor said the option to stay with the RCMP was “far, far less costly” than moving forward with the Surrey Police Service.

“Now that the political delays are over, we can all work together to what brought us here in the first place,” Locke said, adding the major issue is public safety for Surrey.

Surrey RCMP Assistant Commissioner Brian Edwards said plans are underway to recruit many of the current 176 members of the municipal force already working in Surrey.

“I am fully confident in our staffing plan and the RCMP’s ability to staff Surrey detachment in a safe, efficient and measured way that does not negatively impact public safety for provincial RCMP resources in B.C.,” he said.

Chief Norm Lipinski of the Surrey Police Service said in a statement that there is extreme disappointment with the council decision to go back to the RCMP “despite the fact that three years’ worth of financial and human investments have gone into building a local, independent police service for Surrey.”

“It is concerning that council has made this decision, despite the province of B.C.’s clear and evidence-based recommendation that the city of Surrey continue its transition to SPS in order to ensure public safety for Surrey and across B.C.,” he said.

The city’s transition to the independent police force was well underway when Locke was elected as Surrey’s mayor last October on the promise to return policing to the Mounties.

Locke said the city is currently looking at the timeline of when the RCMP will be returned to full strength, but in the meantime, it is expected that Surrey police and the RCMP detachment will work together with “professionalism” ensuring the service level remains high.

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