Surrey Police Board approves creation of new city police force

Surrey OKs new police force

One of the fastest-growing cities in Canada is a step closer to having its own police force as Surrey moves ahead with a controversial plan to replace the local RCMP detachment.

At their inaugural meeting on Thursday, nine members of the new Surrey police board approved a motion to create the Surrey Police Service. It's expected to launch the day after the city's contract with the Mounties ends on March 31.

Board chairman and Mayor Doug McCallum, who was elected on the campaign promise to create the municipal force, said it represents more than a change in uniform.

"It is about local autonomy. It is about local accountability and it is about representing the diverse communities that we serve."

The B.C. government approved the switch in February and appointed the board in June to oversee the new force in Surrey, a city the mayor said is growing by 1,500 new residents each month.

The board is tasked with hiring a chief constable, setting policies, overseeing the service's budget and assuming responsibility for complaints.

McCallum said members will work to "recruit the top police leaders in the country to work with us to build an innovative, modern and proactive police service."

But the president of the National Police Federation, which acts as the bargaining agent for more than 20,000 RCMP and reservists, said recruitment and training could pose challenges.

Brian Sauve said police recruiting across Canada has been increasingly difficult in the last five years.

"Everyone is chasing after the dwindling pool of applicants who want to join policing as a career," he said.

"I think it will be a challenge to create and find 800 or so people who want to be police officers in the Lower Mainland of B.C. in a short period of time."

Even if there are enough recruits, Sauve said the Justice Institute of B.C. does not have the capacity to train them without an infusion of money from the province.

Finding the right candidates for chief of the new police service may also be difficult, he said.

"It's going to need a builder's mindset, not necessarily an experienced police chief's mindset (and it) should be a fairly long process," he said, noting that McCallum has said the chief would be hired by fall.

"Executive searches, they take months, if you're doing it right, and you're doing it transparently, and if you're doing it with the input of experts in the field."

McCallum said the first priority is to hire a police chief, adding the process will start next week.

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