B.C. replaces Surrey Police Board with administrator over troubled transition
November 16, 2023 By The Canadian Press
Nov. 16, 2023, Victoria, B.C. – British Columbia’s solicitor general has suspended the Surrey Police Board and replaced it with an administrator to perform all its duties, ousting Mayor Brenda Locke from her role in Surrey’s troubled transition from the RCMP to an independent police force.
Mike Farnworth, who is also B.C.’s minister of public safety, announced Thursday that he had appointed former Abbotsford chief constable Mike Serr to take over from the board that was chaired by Locke.
Locke issued a statement Thursday calling the move “nothing short of a provincial police takeover,” saying the government’s actions completely remove civilian oversight for police governance in the city.
“Not only is the province attempting to force Surrey into an expensive police transition and a double-digit tax hike, but now they are taking control of policing away from the duly elected government to force through their expensive, disorganized, and flawed plan,” Locke said.
She said she will continue to oppose the transition to the Surrey Police Service.
Farnworth said he acted because of a “lack of progress” from the City of Surrey in the transition up to this point.
“There are some outstanding issues that I’m particularly concerned about, for example budgeting for this year and for the coming year,” Farnworth said in a media briefing. “And the best way to deal with that is to put in place an administrator (and) suspend the board, and that’s why it’s being done.”
Locke has opposed the transition and has previously accused Farnworth of bullying and misogyny against her over the issue. She was elected last year on a platform to reverse the transition and retain the RCMP.
Farnworth said the decision is not a reflection on the board members who would eventually resume their duties, and he thanked them for their “incredible” work.
He said he had informed Locke of his decision and they had a “good, cordial conversation.”
“I think this will move things along,” Farnworth said, adding that “I’ve made it clear the transition will continue.”
The minister said Surrey residents should not be concerned about the quality of their police service, as Serr would assume all duties normally performed by the board.
“Policing will continue as it does now,” Farnworth said. “Police respond to calls in the same way it does now. What this will mean, though, is that I think it’ll be much more efficient in terms of the decisions that need to be made involving the transition.”
Surrey Police Service Chief Norm Lipinski said in a statement that he welcomes the change and is confident Serr “will play a critical role in helping to expedite the policing transition with this streamlining of governance decisions for Surrey Police Service.”
Lipinski also said he looks forward to working with the Surrey Police Board again once their appointments resume.
The Surrey Police Union said in a statement it also welcomes Serr’s appointment, and that although board members had done “an outstanding job” with “an unprecedented transition,” a more efficient process was needed.
“The time has come for this policing transition to be expedited with a more streamlined process that will allow all parties to work toward the completion of the project,” the statement said.
Farnworth said Serr will likely be in his role as administrator for a year to 18 months.
The City of Surrey last month filed a court challenge against the transition, asking for a judicial review of the government’s directive earlier this year to continue the transition to a local police force.
The petition claims the province doesn’t have the authority to force the change without enough funding to support it, but Premier David Eby said that the court action would not be successful and the transition would continue.
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