Surrey residents could go to the polls next fall to decide if they want their own police department. Councillor Tom Gill told his fellow councillors tonight that he plans to introduce a motion (See below) at next week’s council meeting directing city staff to make plans for a third-party review of Surrey’s policing options, including bringing back a city police force.
Gill said the review would include extensive public consultation and input, followed by a special municipal referendum on a Surrey police department in 2019. Staff will be asked to come back with a plan and a proposed review process by the first meeting of the new city council following the October 20 election.
Gill says it is time to ask Surrey residents if they want their own police force, and there is no better time to start the discussion than during the upcoming municipal election. Currently, policing in Surrey is provided by a detachment of 835 RCMP officers, the largest municipal RCMP force in the country.
“It’s time to ask our residents what they think of having a Surrey police department, one with deep roots in the community, and one that reports completely to the people of Surrey, instead of RCMP headquarters in Ottawa,” said Gill who has been a Surrey councillor for 13 years. “Frankly, I think we need to ask ourselves if we’ve outgrown the RCMP?”
Gill said the review and referendum would look at all aspects of the issue, including taking a serious look at what Surrey needs in the years ahead, as well as potential budget considerations. The RCMP have provided contract policing to Surrey since 1951.
“We need to look at everything from costs and current contracts, to the fundamental issue of whether a city our size should have its own police force,” explained Gill, an accountant who chairs the city’s finance committee and sits on Surrey’s policing committee. “We need a full, frank and transparent discussion, one where every voice counts. The RCMP do a very good job, and our day to day relationship with the RCMP leadership and officers here in Surrey is excellent, but one day very soon our city will be the largest in the province, and we need to ask ourselves if we would all be better served in the long run with a made-in Surrey police department?”
Gill noted that across BC there are 12 municipalities with local police departments, and only Vancouver’s is larger than Surrey.
“There are 300 families moving to Surrey every month, and in the next 10 years our population will be over 600,000,” added Gill. “There’s a reason other major cities across the country have their own police force, and why the RCMP tend to police smaller communities,” said Gill. “The RCMP started with us back in 1951. A lot has changed over the past 67 years and today we’re a large urban city. I think it makes good sense to take a detailed look at how we’re policing Surrey going forward. Could we do an even better job if we had our own police department with its local focus, local approach and local recruitment?”
In 1887, Surrey hired its first official police constable, Edmund T. Wade, who worked on a part-time basis. In 1950, Surrey council voted to hand over policing duties from the Surrey Municipal Police Department to the RCMP. Fifteen RCMP constables began patrolling the city on May 1, 1951.