Wally Oppal says it will take him about a month to review the report of the joint provincial-city committee that has been tasked with overseeing Surrey’s transition from the RCMP to a city police force “to see if it passes muster.”
“I haven’t seen it,” he told the Now-Leader on Monday, “but it’s up to me to review it all to see whether or not I think it passes muster. I’m really impressed by the work they’ve done, but I haven’t seen it. There’s no doubt that I’m going to have to go through all of it – it’s quite a few hundred pages, 350 or 400 pages – so I’ll probably work on it during the holidays. Ultimately it’s up to me to decide whether or not it meets the standard to send over to Victoria.”
The City of Surrey issued a press release late Monday afternoon stating that the transition process has taken a significant step forward with the provincial/municipal policing transition study committee on Monday forwarding its report to former B.C. Supreme Court judge Wally Oppal, who is in charge of overseeing the plan.
“I am very pleased that the members of the committee achieved consensus on the report,” Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum stated in the press release. “They have done a superb job. I very much appreciate the cooperation of the RCMP and other stakeholders in completing a very comprehensive report. All next steps on the transition will be the responsibility of the Surrey Police Board.”
Asked what McCallum’s last comment means, Oppal replied “I don’t know what that means. First of all there is no Surrey Police Board and I don’t know why they put out these things.
“There’s no Surrey Police Board, they’re getting way ahead of themselves. When I look at the report, and I’ve looked at it, and I eventually send it on to the director of policing – that’s Brenda Butterworth-Carr – she will then look at it to see whether or not it meets the appropriate standards. She will then send that off to the minister, the solicitor general, and he will then decide whether or not Surrey has met the next step in the process. After that, if it does, the provincial government will then have to take steps to establish a police board and the police board will then advertise for a police chief. So we’re still quite a ways away from it all.”
Meantime, Surrey-Cloverdale Liberal MLA Marvin Hunt suspects the NDP provincial government acted too hastily in giving the green light to the Safe Surrey Coalition’s plan to transition from the Surrey RCMP to a made-in-the-city police force.
Mike Farnworth, minister of public safety and solicitor general, gave the city the go-ahead on Aug. 22 to established a Surrey police force.
“I was kind-of surprised at how quickly Farnworth responded to council’s desire to change police forces with a plan that, to me, had a lot of holes in it,” Hunt told the Now-Leader.
“I sort of expected there to be a volleying back and forth that the provincial government, Farnworth, of course, would have said, ‘Well, interesting, but here’s some deficiencies in your plans, work on these,’ and sort of a volley back and forth that would also tend to clarify the reality of what we’re seeing today, which is that there wouldn’t be any increase in police members, that you would in fact have challenges with the budget,” Hunt said. “Because the budget that (Mayor) Doug (McCallum) talked about during the election, I’m not sure how realistic that is and now that we’re actually doing the plan, that information needs to be out there.
“So,” Hunt said, “I’ve been kind of surprised at how Farnworth has not pushed back on it for more information.
“He’s involved in the Surrey situation whether he likes it or not, because he gave it the green light. Therefore, if you’re going to work with the City of Surrey on this, then work with the City of Surrey and walk through this thing until the transition’s finished, don’t ‘Oh sure, great idea, and wipe my hands of it’ because that doesn’t work for the security of citizens in any community. The NDP are involved because they are a part of working this transition before they got all the information that they needed to make sure the transition was going to work properly.”