The municipality will review its use of two police forces after regional council voted unanimously in favour of a request for a staff report on the unique relationship between Halifax Regional Police and the RCMP.
Coun. Tony Mancini brought the motion to council’s meeting on Tuesday, seeking a “review of the current model of delivering policing services in Halifax Regional Municipality, to provide an evaluation of and make recommendations with respect to the effectiveness along with community safety standards of the current division of policing responsibilities in HRM between the Halifax Regional Police and the RCMP in their capacity as Nova Scotia Provincial Police.”
As the Examiner reported last week, Mancini feels that 25 years after amalgamation, it’s time for the municipality to reconsider its policing model, which is the only one of its kind across Canada.
With a friendly amendment to add the word “independent” in front of “review,” Mancini’s council colleagues voted unanimously in favour of the motion. But several of them were worried about the idea of moving on from the Mounties.
“This will be a very emotional, gut-wrenching discussion, whenever the report comes forward,” said Coun. David Hendsbee.
“The county of Halifax had a long history with the RCMP, a very long and beloved history with our communities, and our communities have grown up with the RCMP. And to change that over, I think would be something that would cause a lot of grief, aggravation and heartache.”
Hendsbee, who represents Preston-Chezzetcook-Eastern Shore, policed exclusively by RCMP, said the report should consider all options. Hendsbee said the RCMP could take over policing for all of HRM, for instance.
“If this report goes forward, it better be all in and have all the facts included and not just cherry pick certain issues to try to bolster one side or the other,” he said.
Coun. Lisa Blackburn stressed the importance of an independent review, and first suggested that friendly amendment to Mancini’s motion. The Middle/Upper Sackville-Beaver Bank councillor also said she doesn’t think Halifax’s two forces are truly integrated.
“We say the words, but I don’t really think that’s what we have. We’ve got sort of a Franken-force of some things are integrated, some things aren’t,” Blackburn said. “For this report to move the needle and for it to make a difference, I think it does have to be independent, and it has to be somebody from out of the province, somebody who doesn’t have a dog in the race.”
“It’s no surprise, I’m a big fan of RCMP, but I’m also equally a fan of HRP,” Kent said.
“I think that there are still improvements we can make on [integration between RCMP and HRP], and I think when we have a fully-integrated situation of two police forces, my god, how good would that be? We would be the only one in the country, and that should be celebrated. We should give them all the tools they need to really make this work.”
Coun. Sam Austin said he’s concerned, like Mancini, that the RCMP will limit the municipality’s ability to reform policing.
“This is not a knock against our local people,” Austin said. “But it is not encouraging when the RCMP cannot even manage three simple words, ‘I am sorry,’ for the street checks issues that we have faced. It doesn’t fill one with optimism that because they’re nationally controlled, that we’ll be able to implement changes in policing if we decide to go down that road with the RCMP as a partner.”
Chief administrative officer Jacques Dubé told councillors the review would likely cost around $200,000, and he’ll bring it back to council before issuing a request for proposals. He said it will likely happen in the fall, after the committee to define defunding is done its works and the current review is underway, and the money will come from of the 2022-2023 budget.
Responding to concerns around timing, Dubé said it makes sense to do all of these different reviews one after another.
“You might as well ask all the questions at once and be done with it,” Dubé said.
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