‘No legal mechanism’ for RCMP to work under municipal Surrey police: memo

There has been another twist in the ongoing saga surrounding the controversial policing transition in Surrey.

In an internal memo obtained by Global News, the Surrey RCMP detachment head says there is no legal mechanism in place that would allow his officers to work under the supervision of the new municipal Surrey Police Service.

Earlier this week, the city rejected a deal with the province that would have provided $250 million over the next decade aimed at indemnifying residents from property tax hikes to cover added costs of the switch from the RCMP.

Click to play video: 'Details of failed Surrey policing deal'

Details of failed Surrey policing deal

Public Safety Minister and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth said the transition would continue regardless, with $150 million going to cover transition costs. He also suggested Surrey RCMP officers could work under the supervision of the SPS when it takes command of policing in the city.

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According to Assistant Commissioner Brian Edwards, the officer in charge of the Surrey RCMP, that could be a problem.

”The RCMP is not aware of validated plans related to changing the police of jurisdiction, deployment schedules, SPS command of RCMP officers or a holistic transition model,” Edwards wrote in a memo to Surrey RCMP members.

“In fact at this time there is no legal mechanism that allows for SPS command of RCMP officers to take place.”

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Farnworth, meanwhile, has said the province has been working with the federal Public Safety Ministry “at the commissioner’s level and there is an agreement in principle it does not require legislative change at all.”

On Wednesday, Surrey Police Service Chief Norm Lipinski said the province’s move to directly fund the transition provided “clarity” and “a way forward” on the contentious issue, and pledged to resume hiring.

But the battle isn’t yet over. Mayor Brenda Locke, who was elected on a pledge to scrap the transition, is spearheading a legal challenge headed to court at the end of April.

Click to play video: 'Surrey Police Service chief moving ahead with recruitment'

Surrey Police Service chief moving ahead with recruitment

Anita Huberman, president and CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade and a supporter of keeping the RCMP, said the ongoing uncertainty is damaging the city’s reputation.

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“This is harming our brand, our ability to be a brand and a destination for businesses, not only national businesses but also international businesses,” she said.

“There is no evidence crime will be reduced, we are moving away from investing in infrastructure that we so desperately need to be a destination — we are going to be the largest city in British Columbia very soon, and if the police transition is forced on us this upcoming city budget remains so uncertain for the business community that bears the greatest burden of taxation.”

Surrey residents that Global News spoke with on Friday shared mixed opinions about their preferred outcome of the fracas, but all expressed frustration about how long it was taking to resolve.

“They could make a decision faster, I don’t know what would be holding them back,” Samantha Sepan said.

Click to play video: 'Surrey rejects provincial funding for SPS'

Surrey rejects provincial funding for SPS

Cecilia Rivera said she didn’t see “any advantage” for moving to a municipal force.

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“We are paying too much taxes and there are no police,” she said.

Shayan Narayan said he wanted the city and the province to “get it settled, get it right and get it over with.”

“Brenda Locke, she should retire and everything would be OK,” he said. “I think the majority would go with the Surrey police. Because when you sit around with people in the neighbourhood, that’s what they are talking (about.) … surrey police would be a better force.”

Kathleen Kennedy-Strath said she felt the RCMP was a better option, but that the bigger problem was the fractured structure of police across the Lower Mainland.

“I think we should just have one police force for several municipalities instead of all the various ones we have because administratively that’s very expensive,” she said. “Local or provincial or regional … I don’t see the purpose of why all these municipalities need to have their own police force.”

Earlier this week, Farnworth said he aimed to provide an update on the timeline for a change of command as early as next week.

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