The British Columbia government is recommending the City of Surrey continue its transition to the Surrey Police Service, despite the wishes of the new council to revert to the RCMP.
The government cites RCMP staff vacancies as one of the key reasons for not wanting the city to keep the Mounties, saying it ensures public safety for the people of Surrey and throughout B.C.
The province says the decision is not binding, but it has placed several mandatory conditions on the city should it decide to retain the RCMP.
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth said Friday it will offer financial assistance for the transition to the municipal police force, which could be up to $30 million a year over five years.
Farnworth said that if the city decides to go with the local force, it would save $72 million in severance fees for the staff already hired by the Surrey Police Service.
If the city it goes back to the RCMP, the government will not help pay that severance, he said.
Both the RCMP and the Surrey Police Service are currently working in the city.
Farnworth said he agrees with a systematic review by the director of police services that the best way to achieve public safety in B.C. is with the local police force.
The Mounties have about 1,500 vacancies in the province and if Surrey reverts to the RCMP, the province said that would worsen the staffing problems faced by municipalities and Indigenous communities trying to fill those positions.
It said filling those vacancies is the responsibility of the federal government.
Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke, who campaigned and won on a promise to move back to the RCMP, said her council and city staff will review the government’s report.
“We will act in the best interests of the citizens of Surrey,” she said at a news conference.
Locke said she has had little time to review the report recommending the independent Surrey Police Service, but “so far. I haven’t seen anything that would change our minds.”
Farnworth said he knows there’s frustration in the city after years of uncertainly.
“The people of Surrey have been through enough. The path we are recommending is safer for all regions of the province.”
He said everyone deserves secure and stable policing they can count on.
“Now is not the time to put public safety at risk in Surrey or in any community in the province.”
The 500-page report from the director of police services details concerns about the RCMP’s current retention and recruitment challenges and outlines potential implications of the presence of Mounties in other regions of the province if the transition is reversed.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 28, 2023.