Surrey City Hall Council Chambers (Now-Leader file photo)

Surrey councillor’s motion to ‘immediately stop’ policing transition process fails

Brenda Locke made the motion at Dec. 16 meeting to reconsider current plan

Surrey Councillor Brenda Locke’s motion to put an “immediate stop” to the policing transition process was shot down at council Monday (Dec. 16).

Monday’s motion recommended that council “conduct a third-party feasibility study that is open and transparent to the public and council,” then following the study, direct staff to “canvas citizens in a reputable manner” to determine whether to continue with the municipal force.

The 5-4 vote, Locke said, was unsurprising.

“But I still stand by what I said,” she told the Now-Leader. “I wanted a sober second look at the transition.”

During the meeting, Locke said this process to “review the city’s relationship with the RCMP has been handled poorly, in secret and with an agenda that was unknown at least to me.”

“To me, there is no question that there is a significant divide in this city… I don’t think today was a very appropriate demonstration of that, but I think that the vast majority of residents in Surrey are not in favour of this move to a municipal police force.”

She said that as a former MLA, minister and chair of the finance committee for the Province of B.C.

“I have been privy to hundreds of reports and recommendations to government. This police transition report would not have met the bar that I would have expected in making a decision of this magnitude,” Locke said. “In my time on this council, I’ve been surprised, and to be frank, concerned about the cheques and balances that occur in processes here. To me, this report is a case in point. It was poorly documented, poorly articulated to both council and the public and a blatant disregard for public process and consultation.”

Locke said she believes there should be “proper transparent consultation” with residents that discloses “the real cost” of the transition to taxpayers.

“I do not believe that the residents of Surrey ever thought that the transition would be done in such a rushed and haphazard manner, potentially putting public safety at risk. You simply cannot defend less officers with less training and more money. That is just a bad deal by any standards, but that is what in fact this report recommends.

Locke spoke for nearly eight minutes, with Mayor Doug McCallum asking her three times to wind up. Councillor Steven Pettigrew ended up taking over from where Locke ended in her speaking notes.

Pettigrew said the plan has “completely and negatively” impacted the future of Surrey.

“Sadly, the misinformation and secretiveness of the transition has caused derision in our city and on this council,” he said.

“As a councillor in this city, we all have a fiduciary duty to understand what we are voting for and we should all have the courage and conviction to defend our positions and view and not rely on blind faith and false narrative of election promise. The election is over and we are voting on a report that is at best flawed and at worst a public safety risk for our city.”

Councillor Jack Hundial asked how widening the gap of police-to-population will make Surrey safer.

“Personally, I did not run to make Surrey less safe by not investing in our emergency responders, whether it be fire services, police or bylaws.”

Councillor Linda Annis said the transition as it’s currently going “is not the right policing plan for Surrey.”

“It has not been well thought out. We need to be immediately hiring more members. I’m very concerned about the safety of the citizens in Surrey if we continue to move along this route.”

The mayor and the Safe Surrey councillors did not speak to Locke’s motion.

Locke’s motion also included making all previous consultation materials about the policing transition publicly available.

Locke had been asking since June for the raw data from the city’s consultation survey that said there was “overwhelming” support for the Surrey police department.

She said she finally received the materials, but was prevented from releasing the information as it was stamped “confidential, not for distribution.”

“It begs the question; why don’t want it released?”

Locke said she has a request into the freedom of information officer to have the results released, adding that she’s hopeful she will be allowed to release the results, “so that the public can see actually what the public consultation information said.”

The Now-Leader has asked the City of Surrey for the consultation materials, as well as submitted an FOI.

OUR VIEW: Surrey mayor jumps to conclusion on police transition survey results, June 25, 2019

READ ALSO: Councillors say new policing poll shows ‘disconnect’ between mayor, Surrey residents, Sept. 26, 2019

Locke initially made the notice of motion to stop the transition at the Dec. 2 meeting.

During the Dec. 2 meeting, Locke said the motion made on Nov. 5, 2018 to move to a local police force “was conducted in a manner that was neither transparent, fair or genuine.”

READ ALSO: Surrey’s top cop ‘disappointed’ after council votes to pull out of RCMP contract, Nov. 5, 2018

Council passed the motion to “immediately create a Surrey police department,” just minutes after taking the Oath of Office on Nov. 5, 2018. Councillors Locke, Steven Pettigrew, Jack Hundial and lone Surrey First Councillor Linda Annis all voted in favour of the motion.

Since then, the four have begun to speak out about the move to a municipal police force.

Locke also said on Dec. 2 that the city’s consultation process was “seriously flawed” in terms of gauging public support in the transition and “none of the partners of the report, including city staff, mayor and council, and especially the VPD, who authored the majority of the report, have defended their input or the report itself.”

Locke highlighted how the public safety committee was cancelled, and no other form of input for all of council was established.

“The police transition has completely and negatively impacted the future of this city in terms of our budget for infrastructure and especially public safety including our fire service,” she said. “Whereas the uncertainty of this plan will lead to significant increases in taxes for residents perhaps as high as 45 per cent on policing costs alone.

“I cannot stand for this folly of a police transition plan especially given the cost to the children, families and our community. There is no question to me that this poorly thought out and rushed plan will put Surrey’s children, families and those who are vulnerable, in fact all citizens, at risk.”

– with files from Amy Reid



lauren.collins@surreynowleader.com

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