A Surrey police force will be in place by summer of next year, says Mayor Doug McCallum.
McCallum addressed about 250 people gathered at Surrey’s Civic Centre during his State of the City Address for 2019.
He addressed some common themes, but now put timelines on them.
He said he’s hopeful the province will like his plan for a transition from RCMP to a municipal police force.
“The plan we have put together is sound,” McCallum said. “I’m very confident the province will like what it sees and we will have Surrey Police officers patrolling our streets by 2020.”
McCallum acknowledged that things were moving fast, but said that’s simply how he operates.
He said when he first arrived in office last year, he noted how the public had become disengaged.
“In politics, promises are too often ignored or forgotten,” McCallum said. “Surrey has suffered for too long on inaction and delays.”
He noted that the last time Surrey saw any rapid transit improvements was in 1994, when phase 3 of the SkyTrain was constructed.
That’s about to change he said, vowing that SkyTrain expansion will be out to tender next year and under construction in 2021.
He underlined the importance of having a local police force, and thanked the council colleagues who backed him.
“To the councillors who have stood with me on bringing a municipal police force to Surrey, I thank you,” McCallum said, acknowledging the dissent around the decision.
He estimates the increased cost of a municipal police force “in the 10 per cent range, and I stand by that.”
He pointed out that the change he’s implementing is nothing personal with the Surrey RCMP.
“I have no quarrel with the men and women of the Surrey RCMP,” McCallum said. “They have done a good job for us, but Surrey is the largest city in the country without its own police force. And that ladies and gentlemen is the root of our problem.”
He said that without our own police force, accountability remains in Ottawa, which oversees the national force. With our own municipal force, there will be more local control.
Surrey RCMP Chief Supt. Dwayne McDonald told reporters afterward a municipal force will face the same policing challenges as the Mounties.
“I don’t believe that a municipal police force or the RCMP are going to are going to provide you any different crime fighting abilities,” McDonald said. “It’s our model of policing… and it does come down to resources and community partnerships as well.”
McCallum also promised to end pay parking on Surrey streets and Surrey Memorial Hospital.
On his promise of “smart growth” in the city, he said Surrey is already working on it.
“We need to get a handle on the tremendous growth in Surrey, that has not allowed for amenities such as schools,” he said.
He also said he was deeply concerned when elected and first saw the state of the city’s finances.
“I was shocked to see how much debt the city is carrying,” McCallum told the crowd. We can’t “mortgage the city’s future.
‘Make sure every dollar is used wisely… Save where we can, and spend within our means.”