The City of Surrey’s plan for a municipal police force still has to go through the full government approval and transition process, but that didn’t stop the city from unveiling the prototype for a municipal police vehicle on Tuesday morning.
“The squad car is a glimpse of what we have planned for the look of Surrey Police,” said Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum.
The unveiling of the design was done in conjunction with McCallum’s annual State of the City address.
During his half-hour speech, McCallum touched on a number of topics and issues affecting the city, including the plan to move away from the RCMP to a city-operated police detachment.
“As Surrey has changed over the years, the time has come to change how our city is policed,” he said. “The change I am talking about is accountability.”
Without the city’s own local department and city police board, McCallum said “accountability ultimately lies in Ottawa.”
And while he stressed that he has “no quarrel” with the city’s RCMP operations as a whole, “the fact remains that Surrey is the largest city in the country that does not have its own police department, and that is the root of the problem.”
By establishing a city police force, he continued, “accountability will stay in our city.”
McCallum said what the city is doing “requires courage” because there’s “no question that the policing transition is a political minefield.”
He suggested that this is the main reason that previous politicians and councils have not pursued the plan for a city police force.
“No politician wants to be on the hook for the initial costs, or draw the attention of the critics,” he said.
And in this case, “there is no shortage of opinions here; the critics bring up the salary savings we currently have with the RCMP vs. the unionized city police force,” he said. “The fact is, those salary savings would be cancelled out in a couple of years because the RCMP are moving to a pay scale that will put them on par with unionized city police.”
When that happens, he continued, “those salary increases will be passed down to us, change or not. Forming our own city police is the right move for Surrey.”
He told those in the audience that when city council “voted unanimously” to cancel the RCMP contract and transition to a city police department, “we did this not out of self-interest, but rather out of the best interests of this city and its people.”
McCallum said the police plan will be in the hands of the province “soon” and “we will be out to share our vision with the people of Surrey.”
In the coming weeks, he added, “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.”