Surrey mayoral candidate Brenda Locke is sticking to her vow in 2021 that if she’s elected mayor in October, with sufficient support on council, the Surrey Police Service will not replace the Surrey RCMP.
“Absolutely we’re going to stop the transition in its tracks and we will be reversing it,” she told the Now-Leader recently, echoing the pledge she made during her candidacy launch at Bear Creek Park last July to bring Canada’s largest policing transition to a “screeching halt.”
“There is no good argument for this. I have still not heard one,” she said of transitioning to the SPS. “We’re doing this without a plan, without a feasibility study.
“The biggest worry for me is there is no way the city can afford this,” Locke said. “There’s no doubt to me that this election, the ballot question if you will, the ballot question for Surrey will be the police transition. The people that are going to be running are going to have to pretty much pick a lane.”
There is precedent for putting the brakes on a major project that was championed by a previous council.
Shortly after being sworn into office, the current council in November 2018 reversed the previous Surrey First-dominated council’s plan to set up light rail transit (LRT) in the city, in favour of expanding Skytrain along Fraser Highway into Langley.
At that time, TransLink said $50 million had already been spent on technical studies, planning, consultation, preliminary design and preliminary work.
Locke noted that Surrey had to “transfer back” $38 million dollars to TransLink for the reversal.
While the policing transition dwarfs the LRT project in scope, Locke says, “If we project the next 10 years, staying with the RCMP is going to save the City of Surrey probably $250 million.”
It’s one thing to say you’re going to reverse the transition, but another to actually do it.
At the least, Locke must defeat Mayor Doug McCallum, who plans to run for a second consecutive term. So fa,r they are the only candidates who’ve announced their intention to run for that office.
“First of all, the transition hasn’t occurred,” Locke points out. “The RCMP are still the police of jurisdiction, so they still are running the show. The RCMP are still doing the good work in the City of Surrey. The SPS have just about failed at every benchmark, every bar they were supposed to get to they have failed at.
“They were supposed to be full-on established by last year. They’re nowhere near close to that,” she said. “This police service has been doomed to fail from the beginning.
“This is all being just fly by the seat of your pants, and we’re taking about public safety. This is ridiculous what we’re doing right now in Surrey,” Locke said. “Here’s the deal – we did a public consultation with was an absolute sham of a consulation process.”
Locke says she will use “pretty much in a nutshell” the same process to reverse the transition that council used in 2018 to put the provincial government on notice that it intends to swap out the RCMP for a city-made police force.
Solicitor General Mike Farnworth told the Now-Leader in February 2020 that while he’s “under no illusions” that many Surrey residents do not want to see the Surrey RCMP replaced with a city police force the City of Surrey has the right and the authority to determine its policing model.
“It’s laid out in the Police Act. They are the ones who get to decide what kind of model they want,” he said.
Worth noting is that Locke voted, before separating from the Safe Surrey Coalition, in favour of setting up a new police force here. So there’s that.
“This is where it gets super complicated,” she starts. “It was already on the books. Doug (McCallum) tries to pretend like this is some brain child of his – it wasn’t. It was already on the books from the previous council. Council said they were going to start the referendum, they were going to support the process to do a feasibility study, it’s all in there, it’s very well documented.
“That’s what I supported.”
According to the Community Charter, a council’s work is contiguous, meaning done in sequence to the work that came before.
“Everything from the previous council, we just work on that. So that’s what I was looking at.”
Locke cites the regular council public hearing minutes for July 23, 2018, when the previous council carried a motion that was presented by Surrey First then-councillor Tom Gill at its July 9, 2018 meeting.
The previous council, under mayor Linda Hepner, directed city staff to “prepare a plan for a third party review that will help facilitate a decision from the City and its constituency on whether the City of Surrey should pursue the establishment of a Surrey Police Department in accordance with the BC Police Act,” and that “The proposed third party review process be presented for approval at the first meeting of the new City of Surrey Council following the municipal election of October 20th, 2018.”
The minutes of that vote also read that “A third-party review and related community consultation be conducted in a manner that includes rigorous research on all issues under consideration as well as recommendations for a best practice policing service model, resourcing and related financial considerations.”
Moreover, the previous council, prior to the 2018 civic election, voted that the findings and recommendations of a third-party review be presented to council in 2019 and be released to the public “to ensure full transparency” and that council would determine if a “special referendum regarding the implementation of a Surrey Police Department is required to be held in the Fall of 2019.”
Locke said the reviewing of the contract in 2018 was in her mind “the right thing to do.
“It should also be noted that at the 2018 inaugural we were all swept in the day. We were not consulted or even knew the wording of the motion until the last minute, basically while we were waiting to go into chambers. That is completely inappropriate – as we were all new to municipal government except for Doug McCallum, in retrospect, highly unfair to have motions on the table that are not given time for consideration.”
Locke said she never had any problem with reviewing the policing contract, but added, “We were completely shut out from the information and the dialogue. And I’m sorry, I’m elected to do my due diligence and if I can’t do it, I’m not going to support it.”
Coun. Laurie Guerra, of the Safe Surrey Coalition, dismissed Locke’s account as “disingenuous.”
“I think it’s a really good way to back-pedal, to hold your ground for when you’re running for mayor,” Guerra said. “I was with her campaigning and we gave hundreds of speeches, Brenda Locke included, and none of that was said. Only what was said was on day one, if we’re elected, on day one we are going to cancel the RCMP contract and work toward a municipal police.
“That’s it in a nutshell, and she went door-to-door, I went with her, we pounded the pavement for months and we told everybody in all of our campaign meetings, campaign platform promises, all the literature, that that is what we’re running on, there was no secret to anybody.”
As for council’s inaugural meeting in 2018, Guerra said, “I don’t remember it the same way she does.”
“There wasn’t a time that I thought Brenda (Locke) was hesitant about whether or not, if we were elected on day one, that we were going to transition from the RCMP to a Surrey police service.”