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New Surrey mayor accused of RCMP bias while chairing her first police board meeting

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Wednesday’s meeting of the Surrey Police Board opened with some awkward moments as new Mayor Brenda Locke sat for the first time as board chair.

Locke was elected last month on a pledge to disband the Surrey Police Service (SPS), and has been shepherding a plan to do so through council since taking office.

That plan clearly won her no fans among the board gathered by Zoom on Wednesday, and the meeting kicked off with a terse question from board member Cheney Cloke.

“Chair Locke you publicly state that you are against SPS and the transition and the work of this board. May I ask how you plan to fulfill your duties as chair recognizing you have signed an oath stating you will be honest and impartial to perform your duties as chair?” she asked.

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Locke responded that it was a “fair question,” but said anyone who fulfils the dual role of mayor and police board chief would be in the same “predicament.”

“I think the (Police) Act understands that, understands that there will be tension, and I do understand my own responsibility to declare conflict when I believe my conflict is in that place,” Locke said.

“I do disagree with that, and I would like that documented in the minutes please,” was Cloke’s reply.

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The meeting came as the SPS deployed yet another 33 officers this week, despite the municipal government’s efforts to disband it. There are now 187 officers working alongside and under the command of the Surrey RCMP.

On Monday, Surrey city council moved efforts to reverse the police transition forward, striking a joint project team to oversee the development of a final plan to keep the RCMP as the police of jurisdiction for the city.

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Read more: Surrey, B.C. needs 161 new Mounties if police transition scrapped, cost still unclear: report

That plan will go to council for approval on Dec. 12, with plans to send it to Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth for approval by Dec. 15.

Assistant Deputy Minister of Public Safety Wayne Rideout said the ministry expects to have detailed reports from both the SPS and Surrey RCMP by Dec. 22.

“To this end the minister has shared his view that he would like to be in position to communicate a ministerial decision as soon as possible, early in the new year,” he said.

According to the framework to halt the transition presented at council Monday, the Surrey RCMP will need to onboard 161 new officers to maintain its funded strength of 734.

The report did not include a cost estimate to reverse the transition, but the Surrey Police Board and SPS say it will be more than $188 million.