British Columbia

B.C. suspends Surrey Police Board, names administrator

The British Columbia government has appointed an administrator to act in place of the Surrey Police Board and assist the city's troubled transition from the RCMP to a municipal force.

Former Abbotsford chief constable Mike Serr named as administrator

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth announces an ICBC rebate on Feb. 2, 2020.
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth says all members of the Surrey Police Board have been suspended and he's appointed a new administrator. (Mike McArthur/CBC)

The British Columbia government has appointed an administrator to act in place of the Surrey Police Board and assist the city's troubled transition from the RCMP to a municipal force.

Mike Farnworth, minister of public safety and solicitor general, says all members of the Surrey Police Board have been suspended and he's appointed former Abbotsford chief constable Mike Serr as administrator.

In a statement, Farnworth said Serr will assume the functions of the board to help with the transition from the RCMP to the Surrey Police Service (SPS). 

All members of the board have been suspended, Farnworth says, and will resume their roles at the end of Serr's appointment. 

Farnworth said the move came after looking at the work of the police board, "which has been limited due to the lack of progress from the City of Surrey in advancing the police model transition to the SPS."

"There are some outstanding issues that I'm particularly concerned about, for example, budgeting for this year and for the coming year, and the best way to deal with that is to put in place an administrator, suspend the board," Farnworth told reporters in Victoria on Thursday.

In July, the province used its powers to order the city to continue the transition from the RCMP to the SPS. The order escalated existing tensions between the two levels of government by effectively forcing Surrey's new council to reverse its decision to keep the RCMP.

In response, the city announced it was filing a petition in B.C. Supreme Court challenging the provincial order.

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Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke, shown at a June news conference, said she will continue to oppose the transition to the Surrey Police Service. (Justine Boulin/CBC)

Last month, Farnworth introduced legislation that, if approved, would force the City of Surrey to complete its transition from the RCMP to the Surrey Police Service.

"British Columbians need to know that when they call the police, help will come," Farnworth said. 

Surrey Mayor Brenda Locke, who chaired the board, has opposed the transition and has previously accused Farnworth of bullying and misogyny against her.

In a statement Thursday, Locke said she will continue to oppose the transition to the SPS, saying it will be costly and provide no added safety benefits.

She said the suspension of the board removes checks and balances and was done without consulting the City of Surrey.

"Once again, the province is demonstrating that their approach is nothing short of a provincial police takeover in Surrey," Locke said. 

Farnworth told reporters he informed Locke of his decision and they had a "good, cordial conversation.''

Farnworth says the decision is not a reflection on the board members who would eventually resume their duties, and he thanked them for their "incredible'' work.

SPS Chief Norm Lipinski also thanked board members and said he looks forward to working with Serr, who retired as chief constable of the Abbotsford Police Department earlier this month. 

Rick Stewart, president of the Surrey Police Union, which represents SPS members, said the suspension of board members shouldn't overshadow their commitment to the community, but "the time has come for this policing transition to be expedited with a more streamlined process that will allow all parties to work towards the completion of the project."

with files from CBC News

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