Though the City of Surrey’s transition to an independent police service has been underway for two years, that doesn’t seem to be stopping provincial politicians from weighing in on the matter.
Recently, BC Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson became the latest politician to use the city’s decision as a way to drum up controversy and win votes among a small but vocal minority of residents who have been protesting a change to the status quo.
The City of Surrey’s decision to create its own independent police service may confuse some who don’t know the city well – but for those of us who have lived and worked here their majority of their lives, the need for a municipal force is self-evident. In the last few decades, our city has undergone an incredible transformation from sleepy suburb to sprawling urban hub. With Surrey’s population set to exceed that of Vancouver’s by the year 2040, the city boasts one of the fastest growth rates in Canada – and there’s no signs of that trend reversing.
In recent years, nearly one in five (19 per cent) immigrants to British Columbia chose to settle down in Surrey, with the city’s newcomer population increasing by 63 per cent between 2001 and 2011, compared with just 24 per cent for Metro Vancouver.
And while this growth has brought many amazing benefits to the city — a diversification of its economy, a flourishing of its downtown core, and a growing technology and innovation sector — the city’s growth hasn’t come without its challenges, either.
With thousands of Metro Vancouver families flocking to the city in search of an affordable place to live, work, and raise their children, Surrey is now the largest municipality in Canada without its own independent, municipal police department.
While smaller cities across Metro Vancouver have their own, locally-based police services – such as New Westminster, Delta, Port Moody and Abbotsford – Surrey has been relying on an RCMP policing model that is typically employed by rural communities. This policing model is simply no longer compatible with the city’s current size, or its future ambitions.
This is why many residents voted for Mayor Doug McCallum in Surrey’s last municipal election, when he led a group of councilors supporting a transition towards an independent, locally controlled police service.
As a long-term resident who lives, works, volunteers and is raising his family in Surrey, I too voted for this change. I strongly felt that Surrey deserved a police service of its own to address the significant social issues facing the city while scaling to meet its ever-increasing population.
Contrary to the current political posturing of provincial parties, nothing has happened since then to warrant a change of this position for me. Like many Surrey residents, I am looking forward to having a police service that is more responsive to community needs, more accountable to taxpayers, and more reflective of our growing diversity.
A municipal police service will allow our city to recruit and retain local talent. It will ensure that officers have a deep, vested interest in Surrey’s present and future livability. It will help keep our city strong, stable, and safe enough to continue to attract new talent and investment.
As Surrey closes in on becoming the largest city in British Columbia, I am proud to call it home. It is young, vibrant, and diverse – and it needs police service that reflects that.
I welcome the transition to a locally governed Surrey Police Service.
Daljinder Singh, Surrey