An “Ideas Box” greets residents outside the entrance to the city’s first public consultation meeting at Cloverdale Recreation Centre on Thursday afternoon. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)

Policing transition

Surrey residents voice disappointment with Surrey’s first public consult on policing plan

First ‘public engagement’ meeting on plan to swap out the RCMP for a city-made police force in Cloverdale Thursday

What light was shed on Surrey’s best-kept secret?

Not much at all, some Surrey residents said. The first of a series of “public engagement” meetings on Surrey’s plan to swap out the RCMP for a city-made police force was held on Thursday, May 23, at the Cloverdale Recreation Centre at 6188 176th St., from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

“He does not have a mandate,” Bruna Giacommazzi, of Surrey, said of Mayor Doug McCallum, as she sat at the entrance to the rec centre. She said she came to learn more about the plan, but hasn’t. “I’m insulted. There’s nothing. The upsetting thing is there’s no transparency.”

Many of those who attended voicing disappointment in the event.

Terry Waterhouse, who is overseeing the transition plan, said he’s “confident” the report will be released to the public after the provincial government has dealt with it. Asked if the mayor would be at Thursday’s meeting, Waterhouse replied, “No, this is a staff event.”

McCallum told Black Press Media on Friday that he expects portions of the report to be released to the public in a couple of weeks.

“That decision does not rest with the city,” McCallum said. “It rests with the province. From the city’s point of view, we would have the full report released. We have no problem with that.”

At Thursday’s event there were posterboards, a suggestions box and the Surrey Police car was parked outside. A staffer wearing an “engagement team” shirt delined to comment to the media.

“I really think it’s lacking,” said Councillor Steven Pettigrew of Thursday’s meeting. He questions how the public can learn about a plan that city council members are not allowed to talk about.

Asked what he thinks of the plan, which he saw for the first time in a closed meeting on Wednesday, Pettigrew told the Now-Leader, “I can’t comment on it. I’m not happy with the amount of closed meetings going on.”

Councillor Jack Hundial said Surrey taxpayers “paid for it (the report), they’re entitled to see it.”

He agreed the secrecy has hamstrung what should be a transparent public consulation process. “It makes me question if that was the intent behind it,” he told the Now-Leader. “It’s not the process I’d use, had I had a say in it.”

Hundial said he’s “a little disappointed that we have people from Vancouver and White Rock here,” and added he hopes the next consults will draw only Surrey residents.

Brenda Dudfield, of Surrey, came to see what the plan is. “Why all the secrecy?” she remarked. “The councillors aren’t telling us anything.”

As Dudfield was being interviewed by the Now-Leader, a man in the background called the event a “dog and pony show.”

Surrey-Cloverdale Liberal MLA Marvin Hunt said there needs to be a document for people to “chew on.

“There’s really nothing new here,” he said. “I don’t see this as real consultation. Everything is slanted in one direction.”

A press release issued by city hall indicated residents would be able to learn more about the transition process and offer their input. This first community consultation, as it was billed, happened one day after Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum revealed Wednesday that the plan has been completed and sent to the provincial government for review.

“No further comment will be made by Mayor McCallum,” a city press release issued Wednesday afternoon indicated.

At council’s inaugural meeting on Nov. 5th, 2018 it served notice to the provincial and federal governments that Surrey is ending its contract with the RCMP – which has policed these parts since May 1, 1951 – to set up its own force.

“The completion of the policing transition report is a landmark moment for the City of Surrey as it marks an important step in bringing local accountability to the citizens of Surrey,” McCallum’s statement reads.

“I look forward to hearing back from the Solicitor General. With the report now in the hands of the provincial government we are moving ahead with our public engagement sessions. I urge our residents to come out and help us shape their Surrey Police Department.”

McCallum has been the target of increasing pressure to release the plan, in its entirety, to the public.

Former Surrey mayor Bob Bose, who ran the city from 1988 to 1996 and then served as a councillor from 2000 to 2008, had harsh words for McCallum on Thursday.

“The council did not approve the plan, that’s been stated by two members of council,” Bose told the Now-Leader on Thursday. “They simply referred it off to Victoria; it’s not an approved plan.”

“Insulting. It offends me that they should call it public consultation,” Bose said. “For the record, I’m not so concerned about the plan. I can hardly believe the plan itself will be the problem. The problem will be whether or not Surrey will accept the financial impact of this transition. They don’t know. There’s nobody answering any questions about whether or not the plan can be actually implemented.

“The can’s been kicked down the road to the Solicitor General as the only fall-back position,” Bose said.

READ ALSO: Surrey councillor calls proposed policing transition plan ‘shocking’

READ ALSO: Surrey councillors say they’ve now seen policing transition plan

READ ALSO: Surrey policing plan sent to provincial government for review

Premier John Horgan said in Surrey on Thursday morning that he has not see the report. “I don’t know what the consultation will involve today, I think it is in Cloverdale. We’ll just have to see. I will argue, and I’ve made the case to Mayor McCallum, that the public needs to have a clear understanding why there would be a requirement to change, what the cost of that change will be, and would it be a diminishment or an improvement in the delivery of services to people.

“I can’t answer those basic questions because I don’t know, and if I can’t, I assume that the public can’t, either.”

READ ALSO: Policing in Surrey – what exactly is the plan?

READ ALSO OUR VIEW: Surrey deserves policing details

Meantime, Mike Farnworth, minister of public safety and solicitor general, released a statement after receiving Surrey’s proposal noting it’s his “statutory responsibility” to decide if it “meets the requirements of the Police Act to provide adequate and effective policing and meets the expectations of public safety for the people of Surrey.”

Farnworth noted it “deals with many complex issues, so it will be important not to rush this.

“Staff will now review and provide advice to me in my role as Solicitor General to determine the next steps – taking into consideration the thoroughness of the plan,” Farnworth said. “I have discussed with the Mayor my expectation that the report, in some form, is made available to the public in the weeks ahead. As always, our work will be guided by our priority of keeping the people of Surrey safe.”

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Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum poses with an example of a Surrey Police cruiser after his State of the City Address at Civic Hotel on May 7. (Photo: Amy Reid)

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