My letter to Minister Farnworth and Mayor McCallum
Dear Minister Farnworth, and Mayor McCallum
RE: RCMP in Surrey Sept 01, 2020
I write to convey the ever-increasing alarm and uncertainty that my constituents in South Surrey are experiencing with respect to the decision to replace the RCMP in Surrey with a newly formed municipal force.
The safety and security of our citizens is the primary role of all levels of government, and I know that you both would agree that we must maintain that public trust.
From all reports that have reached me, it now seems a virtual certainty that the April 1st, 2021 target for the Surrey Police transition cannot be met.
The move to a Surrey Police Force is one of the hottest topics in South Surrey. There is no doubt in my mind, after much public consultation that I have undertaken, that there is an overwhelming interest in keeping the RCMP.
I fundamentally believe that it is incumbent on all of us to ensure our citizens feel safe within the City of Surrey. Transitioning to an unknown Surrey Police Force that is mired in uncertainty is deteriorating the community’s sense of security.
Now is the time to announce an extension that includes ample time for effective public engagement. A public safety plan for Surrey created with full citizen input would be well received and is necessary. Currently, there is a strong belief that the existing plan was developed away from public scrutiny. This has created a distrust that could take decades to fully resolve.
It is challenging to tell from outside the process, but it appears that the IT infrastructure required is behind schedule. Several recent news articles demonstrate that the hiring process for experienced officers is going to be more difficult than expected. It should be noted as well that recruitment from other existing forces will present operational deficits for them which will have to be addressed concurrently through further recruitment and training. This is unfolding at a time when the Justice Institute of BC training program is closed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
To continue with a rushed transition timeline is adding real risk to public safety for my constituents. I understand that this would not have been the goal, but it is the reality.
This is causing undue concern to Surrey residents and businesses at a time when their stress due to health restrictions, economic downturn, and staffing barriers is at an all-time high.
I ask that the process be extended to allow the newly appointed Police Board time to effectively engage with the public. A comprehensive policing plan, that puts forward a realistic feasibility report on what Surrey’s specific needs are and how they can be effectively met (including costing), should be voted on in an earlier stand alone referendum or one conducted at the same time as the next municipal election in 2022.
Public safety is too vital to have transformative change occur without a thorough and open process. Especially at this time of unprecedented challenges to our economy both provincially and federally, I suggest it is best to tread carefully with a well thought out and costed plan that looks to the issues of recruitment, staffing, training, and operational needs.
I am confident that my South Surrey constituents will abide by the results of a well-presented referendum, and feel that they have then been given full opportunity to participate in this major decision that they will be asked to pay for, live with, and respect.
I would be happy to meet or have a discussion with you at any time regarding the provision of this essential frontline service, and to work toward restoration of public trust that has eroded.
Hon. Kerry-Lynne D. Findlay