Surrey City Council approves plan to replace RCMP with new municipal police

Nov 6 2018, 7:17 pm

Last night during the inaugural Surrey City Council meeting, the newly-elected mayor and city councillors unanimously voted to begin the process of severing the municipal government’s RCMP contract and create its own independent, municipal-controlled police force.

This was one of Mayor Doug McCallum and his Safe Surrey Coalition party’s largest election campaign platform promises.

The approved motion orders city staff to take all appropriate steps to immediately create a Surrey police department and notify the RCMP and the federal government that it is terminating its contract with the Surrey RCMP police force.

“I would like to thank the RCMP for their tremendous amount of work and effort in making our city safe over so many years,” said McCallum. “I believe very strongly that Surrey has outgrown the RCMP, we are the last major city in Canada without our own police service.”

RCMP. (Clive Camm / Flickr)

Other city councillors also weighed in and thanked the RCMP for providing policing services to the municipality over the decades.

“I have the utmost respect of the members of the RCMP who police our city,” said Councillor Doug Elford. “I believe it’s time for a change to our policing model in Surrey. The people of Surrey have told us they want change. I believe the municipal police force serves the needs of the city best.”

“The community and neighbourhoods have spoken and they tell me they want a safer, more livable community. This can be achieved with a police force modelled to meet the needs of Surrey, controlled by the people of Surrey and responsible to the people of Surrey.”

The cost and timeline of creating a municipal police force is unknown at this early stage of the process, which will most certainly require start-up investments such as new police buildings, equipment, and other infrastructure.

In 2016, following a lengthy public consultation and planning process, Richmond rejected a plan to create its own police force after residents expressed their opposition in a city-led survey. There are significant economies of scale provided by the RCMP’s national network, which effectively reduces operational costs and the need for redundancies.

According to the then-proposed police force funding model – similar to the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) – a Richmond municipal police force would cost between $46.97 million and $48.67 million to operate annually – slightly more expensive than the annual cost of $44.74 million per year with the Richmond RCMP, which already accounts for about 20% of the city’s annual budget.

On top of the higher operating costs, officials in Richmond estimated a one-time $19.6-million start-up cost.

Surrey RCMP headquarters

New Surrey RCMP and RCMP E-Division headquarters. (RCMP)

Currently, the RCMP has allocated approximately 800 officers to its Surrey detachment, with the municipal government providing the federal police force with a budget of about $150 million per year. This accounts for roughly 20% of the City of Surrey’s annual operating budget of about $800 million.

Surrey is also the new location of the headquarters of the RCMP in BC, called E-Division. In 2012, E-Division relocated its headquarters from its longtime home at the Heather Street Lands in Vancouver to a new $966-million, 820,000-sq-ft campus at 14200 Green Timbers Way in Surrey.

In contrast, the larger VPD’s 2018 budget is about $285 million, accounting for more than one-fifth of the City of Vancouver’s annual budget this year. However, proponents of a Surrey municipal police force say such an arrangement allows for local governance and improved accountability of policing to better tackle crime and public safety issues.

Other municipalities in the Lower Mainland that also have their own municipal police force include Abbotsford, Delta, New Westminster, Port Moody, and West Vancouver.

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