The debate over policing in Surrey, BC, got personal on Monday when Mayor Brenda Locke accused Attorney General Mike Farnworth of bullying and misogyny after suggesting the city played games with the handling of the case.
Locke said Farnworth has been a bully “all the way through” the city council process, which ultimately determined it would revert to the RCMP well into the transition to an independent city council force.
“I’ve worked in politics for a long time. I’ve worked in the liquor industry for a long time. I’ve never, ever used the gender map,” Locke said. “But in this case I definitely think there is misogyny, I have no doubt about that.”
A representative from Farnworth’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Locke’s claims.
LOOK | Locke levels out the accusations as she answers reporters’ questions:
‘Not the time to play games’
Her comments came after Farnworth issued a statement saying he was concerned last Wednesday after learning a report on the future of policing in Surrey had not been shared with the county but would be put to a vote by the council.
The minister said he had asked Locke to share the report and postpone the vote, but it went ahead before he had a chance to determine whether the plan would guarantee safe policing.
“It is critical that I get this report. Now is not the time to play games. The safety of people in Surrey is too important,” his statement said on Monday.
Locke said it was “frightening” to suggest that there were public safety issues in the city.
She had campaigned last autumn on a pledge to bring the RCMP back to Surrey after her predecessor, Doug McCallum, initiated the transition to a municipal army.
The BC government advised the city in April to proceed with the transition to Surrey’s independent police force and offered $150 million in funding to help.
At the same time, Farnworth drafted guidelines for the City Council to retain the RCMP.
“The City of Surrey gets to choose their police force, but my responsibility is the second part of that process, which is to ensure safe and effective policing in the City of Surrey and the county and the demands I made a few weeks ago have been met” , the minister said at a press conference on Friday.
That’s after Locke announced that the council had voted to go back to the Mounties, saying it would be much cheaper than continuing with the independent force.
Who has authority?
Farnworth gave the city a deadline of 1 p.m. Monday to share its report, saying he would otherwise be forced to make a decision about effective policing without it.
Locke said the report had not been shared before because it had not yet been approved by the council, and as of Monday morning, the city had not received signed nondisclosure agreements from the county for those who wish to view the document.
She said Farnworth’s deadline gave the city a business day to send the time council report voted on Thursday.
“One day, and he expects us to get everything ready and report to him by noon, and he says we’re playing games?”
But by noon, Farnworth said he had received the report and non-disclosure agreement and that the county was “working urgently so that I can decide as soon as possible whether it meets the requirements I have set out to ensure safe and effective policing in Surrey and the county.”
Locke said there’s no plan for the city to continue the transition to a municipal force because that’s not what the decision board was making.
“The Solicitor General said in the report he gave us there were two options for the City of Surrey. We just didn’t choose the one he preferred,” she said.
She acknowledged, however, that the county could demand that the town remain with Surrey Police – and the conflict could escalate further.
“I know they can overrun cities, but I would expect there would be a reasonable person with all this,” she said.
“If you ask me, I think legally (the county can override them), I can’t answer that. I didn’t have that conversation with our attorney.”