Surrey has hired a chief constable for its new police force, a major step toward launching the agency intended to replace the RCMP.
On Friday, the police board announced that Norm Lipinski, recently the deputy chief of the Delta Police Department, will be the first chief of the Surrey Police Service, which is in the works for a launch at an unspecified date.
The hiring means work will start on recruiting officers for the new force, as well as drafting a strategic plan outlining its priorities and objectives.
Mr. Lipinski spent 25 years with the Edmonton Police Service before becoming an assistant RCMP commissioner and eventually joining the Delta Police Department.
In a news conference to announce his new posting, he said: “It’s the best job in policing in Canada right now. The ability to, I’ll say, have a clean canvas and build a police department with the community, I think, is very, very attractive.”
To fill the canvas, he said, he will consult widely in the community to develop a policing plan.
Asked whether his new force will utilize street checks – a practice that has been controversial – he said such measures are governed by provincial standards set by the Solicitor-General and that he will abide by those standards.
He said his experience with the Mounties could help in the process of replacing them in Surrey, which began in 2018 when Mayor Doug McCallum and other councillors voted to proceed with the idea to create a policing structure more responsive to community needs.
The RCMP have policed Surrey since the 1950s.
“It is important when you do a transition of this nature to be able to work closely together and understand the processes on either side of the fence,” Mr. Lipinski said.
Understanding the federal system, he said, would facilitate the transition. “That’s very, very advantageous for the citizens of Surrey.”
In a statement, Assistant RCMP Commissioner Brian Edwards congratulated Mr. Lipinski and said Surrey residents should know the RCMP will continue policing the city through the “long and complex process” of transition. “Please feel confident that your safety remains our top priority as we move through this process,” he said.
“There is no doubt that this continuing process to transition Surrey’s policing service has been challenging for our people. They are dedicated police officers and support staff, many of whom live and raise their families in Surrey. For the past two years, they have continued to do their jobs with professionalism, integrity and compassion while working under a cloud of uncertainty for their personal and professional futures.”
In a statement, the police board said Mr. Lipinski was chosen through a recruitment process led by a third-party professional search firm and vetted via a framework that included a commitment to de-escalation training and fostering a diverse and inclusive environment.
Mr. McCallum said the next steps include the approval by city council of the police service budget in the coming weeks.
The provincial government approved the transition in February and appointed the board in June to oversee the new force in Surrey, British Columbia’s fastest-growing city.
In a report on the transition, former B.C. attorney-general Wally Oppal noted that Surrey is an outlier as the only Canadian municipality with more than 300,000 residents that doesn’t have its own police force.
But the transition has been controversial, prompting the resignation of three members of Mr. McCallum’s Safe Surrey Coalition, who cited concerns about his approach.
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