Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke did not mince words in her response to the news that the province has suspended the city’s police board.
“This was a very heavy-handed move,” she told Global News on Friday. “I am very concerned about the lack of civilian oversight. I think we all should be concerned about that.”
On Thursday, B.C.’s public safety minister and solicitor general, Mike Farnworth, announced that he had suspended all of the board’s members and former Abbotsford police chief Mike Serr has been appointed as administrator to fulfill their functions on the Surrey Police Board.
Locke said despite this latest development in the multi-year policing saga, the city is not changing its approach.
“We have our decision that our counsel made and that was to keep the RCMP as the police of (this) jurisdiction. That’s still our goal,” Locke said. “We are still in a position where we’re in the process of going to court. Nothing for us has changed.”
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Farnworth said the decision was necessary due to a lack of progress from Surrey in moving ahead with the police force transition. The action also results from the need to address budgeting for the current and coming fiscal years, he said.
“The best way to do that is to put in place an administrator, suspend the board, and that’s why it is being done,” Farnworth said. “This is not a reflection on the board members who I think have worked incredibly hard and done outstanding work.”
Locke, however, said one of the reasons she thinks the board was suspended was due to some of its members.
“The minister and the ministry knew full well there were some people on that board that were disruptive, and they knew full well they had to deal with that,” Locke said. “They chose not to for over a year … so we are (now) at this position.”
Surrey Board of Trade’s CEO and president Anita Huberman said the board was extremely disappointed with Farnworth’s Thursday announcement.
“Public safety needs to be a partnership between the community and those public safety personnel and, now, we have an adversarial relationship between local government and the Surrey Police Service,” Huberman said. “We are so concerned about the business community’s taxation impact in 2024. It is businesses that bear the burden of taxation and there is no evidence a new police service will reduce crime. What is happening right now is an embarrassment. It is an embarrassment to our city, our community and our residents.”
Farnworth said on Thursday that once the transition is complete — a process he said is expected to take between a year to 18 months — the board can be re-instated.
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth announces suspension of Surrey Police Board
— With files from Simon Little
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