Surrey’s controversial transitioning from the Surrey RCMP to its own city-made Surrey Police Service has thus far cost city taxpayers $2.9 million with another $5.7 million expected to be spent by year’s end.
Finance committee chairwoman Elizabeth Model spilled the figures during a 15-minute presentation on expenditures to date, concerning Surrey’s move to replace the RCMP with its own police force, during Friday’s Surrey Police Board meeting.
“While $25.2 million was budgeted, only $2.9 million was expended by September,” Model said. “A further $5.7 million is expected to be incurred by the end of the fiscal year, December 2020.”
Model said there is a “projected positive balance” of $16.4 million “which will carry forward to fund expenses in 2021.”
She said the key categories of expenditures involve infrastructure (information management and information technology), legal, finance and policy advice, strategic communication, recruitment and staffing for the police transition team, and establishment costs for the board.
“The expenses outlined include both capital and operating expenditures, with most capital expenditures occurring in the infrastructure, IM and IT,” Model said.
“Many categories of expenses did not incur costs in the first half of the year due to the later-than-expected appointment of the board and as a result they’re showing a positive variance on the expected budget,” Model said. “For example, recruitment expenses for the transitional recruiting unit. Now some of areas were able to be advanced more quickly, including the complex advice from legal, policy and financial advisors who provided independent expertise to the project, strategic communications activity completed to date, and the purchase of necessary capital equipment, fleet and IT.”
The board also set a $500,000 “spending authority” for Chief Constable Norm Lipinski, related to operational expenditures.
“It is further recommended that expenditures in excess of $500,000 be forwarded to the Finance Committee for authorization,” Model writes in her report to the board. “This spending limit is in keeping with City thresholds for City of Surrey delegation of authority. These recommendations are interim and will be formalized in Surrey Police Financial Policy as they are developed and approved.”
The board is required to submit by Nov. 30 a provisional Surrey Police Operational/Transition budget for 2021 to the City of Surrey.
Mayor Doug McCallum, who is chairman of the Surrey Police Board, said at Surrey’s Nov. 9 regular council meeting that
the city “will have officers on the ground in the next few months.”
The board also fielded several written questions from the community. Board member Cheny Cloke tackled the first two.
The first question, read out by executive director of the board Melissa Granum, asked “is there a way to finally put the campaign to keep the RCMP in Surrey to rest. I understand that everyone has a right to their own opinions, however the people behind that campaign have created a lot of tension and friction within our community – their scare tactics and childish behaviour has escalated and needs to stop.”
Cloke responded that the role of the board is to govern the Surrey Police Service. “We respect that we have passionate residents that do continue to make their voices here,” she said. “We will continue to demonstrate that we’re accountable to Surrey’s residents and continue to work with the community to understand the role of the board.”
The next question was this: “Whenever I call the RCMP to ask for help their call-takers give me the run-around and play 20 questions. By the time the RCMP arrives the suspects are long gone. Will the new Surrey police department become more responsive if I need to ask for help?”
Cloke replied that the board can assure residents that the SPS will be accountable for its response times for the wide range of service calls that they’ll be attending. Lepinski also weighed in.
“I think it’s important that when I start that I scan the service delivery model for Surrey, which means that looking at the response times, when does the call come in, and then when is it dispatched and then when do the police officers arrive,” Lepinski said. “That’s important from a customer service perspective.”
The third question was posed to Model: “Given the following crime statistics that show a seven per cent drop in violent crime, which were recently published in the Surrey Now-Leader, why to we need to replace the Surrey RCMP with a neophyte untested police force? Why would we want to lose these valuable officers?”
Model replied that crime rates are “the number-one metrics used to assess the effectiveness of the police” and “as a local governance board, we will be forward-thinking in developing metrics based on the priorities and goals and objectives that are identified by the residents and the businesses in Surrey, and we’re going to hold SPS accountable to them.”
She asked Lepinski to add his comments to this question.
“It’s a very good question,” he said. “If you look at other police departments throughout the Lower Mainland, all departments have experienced a decline in crime rates recently, and I think part of that is because of the pandemic. Nonetheless, when you’re looking specifically at Surrey, my job is going to be to ensure that it continues declining, and it’s a comprehensive plan that we’ll look at putting into place and I look forward to implementing that and to ensure public safety is maintained and improved on for the citizens of Surrey.”