The City of Surrey has announced it will begin its “public engagement process” next week for the planned transition from Surrey RCMP to a municipal police force.
The first in a series of public events is planned at Cloverdale rec centre (6188 176th St.) on Thursday, May 23 from 3 to 7 p.m.
“Residents will be able to learn more about the transition process and offer their input as to which priorities they want to see in shaping the Surrey Police Department,” a City of Surrey release notes.
The City of Surrey directs residents to visit surreypolice.ca for more information on the project.
Mayor Doug McCallum has been criticized by some for not consulting with the public as city hall worked on its draft policing plan, which must receive provincial approval to proceed.
McCallum argued that public consultation was done during his election campaign.
Amid criticism in April, McCallum told the Now-Leader “we’ve been very clear, and we ran the campaign for literally three months and did a huge amount of public consulting.”
“In fact, we’re probably elected, certainly I’m elected, because I said to the public if they elected me that I was going to change to our own police department on the first day that we had a council meeting,” the mayor said at the time. “And we did that.”
While McCallum has not revealed if the proposed transition plan has yet been sent to the provincial government, he said in early May it was almost complete.
Several councillors – including Linda Annis, Jack Hundial and Steven Pettigrew – have said the public should be able to see the plan prior to its completion.
And, should be able to provide their input.
Earlier this month, Pettigrew’s campaign to invite public scrutiny of the city’s plan to transition from the was stymied by the mayor for the second time.
Pettigrew, who is part of the mayor’s Safe Surrey Coalition, tried it before but McCallum ruled his motion out of order, saying it should instead be dealt with at a public safety committee meeting.
Pettigrew took him up on in early May, when it was again shot down.
“I’m trying to have public consultation in the transition process. It’s not going too far. My motion was denied again,” a frustrated Pettigrew told the Now-Leader, following the latest public safety committee meeting.
“Everything has gone to closed now, so now I can’t talk about it and it’s very frustrating because too much is happening behind closed doors.
“I totally don’t agree with it,” Pettigrew said. “Some things, yes, have to be there, but many things don’t. I don’t believe this one needed to be – this is something that should be out in the open and councillors should be putting themselves on the line for this, where they stand and what they think, not hiding in the shadows.”
McCallum reaffirmed his commitment to establishing a city police force during his 2019 State of the City Address on May 7.
It’s a move that takes “political courage” and is a “political minefield,” he told a crowd of approximately 200 in the ballroom at the Civic Hotel.
He also unveiled a website, surreypolice.ca, which he says will allow residents to provide input into the creation of the force.
“In the coming weeks we will be asking our residents to tell us which priorities they want to see for their new city police and help guide it into the future,” said McCallum.
At the event, the showcasing of a “Surrey Police” car raised eyebrows as the provincial government has not yet approved city council’s plan to transition from the RCMP to a made-in-Surrey police force.
During his speech, the audience was also shown a photo of what Surrey Police uniforms might look like and a promotional video for a new force.
-With files from Tom Zytaruk