BY RATTAN MALL
TERRY Waterhouse, General Manager of the City of Surrey’s Policing Transition, told The VOICE this week that the process for transitioning to an independent municipal police service from the Surrey RCMP is “going well” and the Ministry of the Solicitor General has been “exceptionally cooperative.”
He added: “We’ve had several meetings and conversations and we are very pleased with their support.”
Meanwhile, Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum told The VOICE on Friday that he doesn’t think the appointment of RCMP Deputy Commissioner Brenda Butterworth-Carr, as the province’s new director of policing in March, will cause any problem. Butterworth-Carr in her new role will be advising Solicitor General Mike Farnworth about approving any plan for an independent Surrey municipal police force.
McCallum said: “We were aware of that a while ago … I wish her well in the new job and we are looking forward to working with her towards getting our own police force.”
McCallum told me: “For sure, we are going to get our own police force. The public wants to have their own police force. We are working very hard every single day towards that goal and we are starting to develop the report that will be going shortly to the government that they had requested.”
He also pointed out the agreement the City of Surrey has with the City of Vancouver. “We are using that agreement to do the report first of all, and they are going to help us out on that basis,” he added.
He said Vancouver Police “are going to help us in certain aspects as far as city police are concerned and we are moving very quickly on that front and it’s going along, in my opinion, fairly well and is on schedule [for us] to be able to have our own police force up and operating in two years.”
Surrey Council at its first regular meeting in November had unanimously approved a motion to start work on creating a Surrey Police Department and serve notice to the federal and provincial governments that the City will be terminating its contract with the RCMP.
McCallum then appointed Waterhouse to handle the policing transition, noting: “With his extensive experience in the criminal justice system and his most recent tenure as General Manager of Public Safety, Terry is well suited to lead the transition planning to a municipal police department for Surrey.”
Waterhouse had told The VOICE back then that they had “a comprehensive plan in place” for the transitioning process.
This week, he said: “We have continued to follow the path laid out with the [November] motion from Mayor and Council. We have been working closely with government and plans are moving well.”
Waterhouse explained: “It’s largely the responsibility of the provincial government, so the most specific communication and planning happen with the province. It’s the solicitor general that has responsibility, so it’s his ministry that we mostly work with.”
Asked if any information could be released at this stage, Waterhouse said: “There will be announcements that are coming as we continue along the process, but at this point it’s still in progress and there is nothing that can be released.”
Regarding costs, he said: “All the financial aspects are all a big part of the plan and, yes, we definitely are looking at all of those and when it comes time for impact on budget and that sort of thing, all of that will be dealt with.”
Asked about the challenges they were facing, Waterhouse noted: “The biggest challenge I think is the complexity of the endeavor. It’s never been done before and there are a lot of important considerations and issues to be addressed, so there’s certainly the complexity. But with the cooperation that we are finding at this point – it’s a lot of work, it’s complex but – it is doable.”
He also pointed out: “We have an agreement in place with the City of Vancouver and with the Vancouver Police to provide some assistance. They’ve had a municipal police department for decades and they are recognized expertise in big city policing, so we are working closely with them and appreciating their support as we go forward.”
He added: “We are very pleased with the progress to date, and very pleased with the cooperation of the government and appreciative of the support from our colleagues in Vancouver.”
MEANWHILE, Councillor Jack Hundial, a former Surrey RCMP officer, clarified to The VOICE this week that he still supports the formation of an independent municipal police service, but added that he also wants transparency and the results from the ongoing process.
In a Facebook post he wrote: “One of the issues facing Surrey in the coming year is the proposed switch to a municipal police force. The links below give some context to when Richmond looked at this a few years ago. I would encourage everyone to take the time to read it, as I expect the outcomes may be very similar.
“I have always stated that any change in police service has to provide real benefits in public safety and that the process needs to be transparent for the tax payer.”
When I pointed out to Hundial that one of the conditions of joining McCallum’s team was agreement on having an independent Surrey police force and that he should have known what that involved, he said: “I still support moving towards that … The only thing is that it needs to be transparent for the public as well.”
He added: “No one wants to have a surprise in their tax bills.”
I pointed out to Hundial that McCallum won the election on the basis of establishing an independent Surrey police force even if it’s expensive, and he doesn’t necessarily have to go back to the public and have a referendum on that.
Hundial said: “But I think we need to look at the public being included though in the decision … We need to be transparent and inclusive because we also ran on that.”
In any case, people feel that Hundial should have discussed the matter in Council instead of starting some kind of a Facebook campaign.