Surrey Police Board Administrator Mike Serr is delivering a 2024 provisional budget to the City of Surrey today for the Surrey Police Service as the fledgling force aims to replace the Surrey RCMP, a move that the majority on Surrey city council remains vehemently opposed to.
“I believe this budget, along with its underlying assumptions, will give city council the confidence in moving this transition forward,” Serr said.
The recently retired Abbotsford police chief-ran his first SPB meeting on Thursday, Nov. 30 since Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth temporarily suspended the SPB – of which Mayor Brenda Locke was chairwoman – and put him in charge.
Serr declined to reveal details related to the “carefully developed” provisional budget before council has a look.
“I will not comment on the details at the moment because city council deserves the courtesy and the opportunity to review it,” he said. “Most importantly, I’m assured that this budget is carefully developed in alignment with the City of Surrey’s 2023 to 2027 financial plan. I recognize that the critical path of implementation work with all parties may refine these assumptions. If there are changes to the assumptions prior to March, when the budget is required to be finalized, these will be reflected in an amended budget submission to the city.”
One underlying assumption reflected in the budget submission, Serr said, is that the SPS will hire an additional 180 sworn officers in 2024. “This will bring this blended service to over 50 per cent SPS by the end of 2024.”
He noted Surrey’s current “blended” policing service with more than one quarter, roughly 200 SPS officers, working alongside Mounties. “It is essential that this board continue to provide sound governance and oversight as this transition proceeds.”
Farnworth said on Nov. 16, when he announced Serr’s appointment, that it was made under Section 8 of the Police Amendment Act “after careful consideration of the work by the Surrey 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.”
“At the heart of this work for me is public safety, and officer safety, and delivering results that make the public safe and feel supported,” he said at the outset, adding he’s focused on moving the controversial policing transition forward “in a thoughtful, respectful manner.
Serr was required to submit a budget to Surrey by Thursday, Nov. 30 and if the city is not happy with it, Farnworth said, “that goes to the director of police services for them to make a decision, recommendations or changes or what have you. That’s been in existence in the Police Act for a long time and has been used from time to time.”
The board’s next meeting is set for Jan. 25, unless Serr calls one before then.
“I deeply value civilian oversight,” he said during SPB’s trimmed-down virtual meeting. “I’ve taken on this temporary role with a view to bridging back to a permanent police board as soon as possible. As a sole administrator, even though temporary, I will do this job with the best interests of the people of Surrey at the top of my mind.”
“I am an independent administrator,” he stressed. “For my first step, I wrote to Surrey council to ask for an opportunity to hear from their thoughts on priorities, their vision, and objectives for policing and to open a clear channel of communication. I full recognize that this has been a contentious issue but I sincerely want the opportunity to listen and to hear from their perspectives.”