Process to transition Surrey from RCMP to municipal police force continues behind closed doors
The next public update on the future of Surrey’s switch from federal policing to a municipal force is expected to happen later this month.
Wally Oppal, former B.C. attorney general and head of the province’s joint transition committee overseeing the process, will address the Surrey Board of Trade on February 26.
The committee — composed of law enforcement experts, criminologists, and provincial and municipal officials — was announced last August by Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth and Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum, who has championed the policing transition, citing the need for locally trained officers who know the community.
Committee members are tasked with fleshing out details for the city’s proposed plan to switch police forces, and filed their final report in December.
However, the committee’s terms of reference remain hidden — the public safety ministry declined a request to release them, citing section 13 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
After his own review, Oppal sent the final report to the province’s director of police services, Brenda Butterworth-Carr — a former RCMP officer — for further consideration, according to the public safety ministry.
Some Surrey city councillors have pushed for the report to be made public, to no avail. Others have questioned whether Mayor McCallum’s push for the new force has as much public support as he contends it does. (A city-run citizens survey clocked support at 93 per cent.)
Butterworth-Carr is now responsible for making a recommendation to Minister Farnworth as to whether the city should establish its own force. If the green light is given, Surrey will make a leap few jurisdictions in Canada have completed.
An ‘unprecedented’ transition
In addition to the joint transition committee, Farnworth has also established a Policing Model Transition Secretariat to ensure the province’s “accountabilities, public safety, and police oversight” are all adequately addressed.
According to documents obtained by BC Today via Freedom of Information request, the secretariat includes the joint transition committee membership, the City of Surrey’s policing transition department and Butterworth-Carr as well as six executive assistants — five from the provincial government as well as Oppal’s own.
Internal documents also reference a “jurisdictional scan completed by Deloitte,” which was sent to transition committee members Doug LePard and Paul Gill at the end of July 2019. The public safety ministry told BC Today the firm was hired to look for “jurisdictions across Canada and around the world that may have experienced transitions in their policing models” in order to provide potential benchmarks and best practices for Surrey to follow.
In an email acquired by BC Today, LePard called Deloitte’s work “interesting and helpful” and said it “emphasized how unprecedented the proposed complete swap-out of a large [police department] for another one is.”
Deloitte also developed an evaluation framework for the province to use “to ensure the objective analysis of Surrey’s transition plan.”
The ministry declined to provide the cost and results of the jurisdictional scan.
Members of the joint transition committee were required to sign a confidentiality agreement requiring written consent from the province to “discuss or divulge committee business to external parties.”