Halifax is not publicly releasing a consultants’ report into police services in the municipality, citing “sensitive information” around the use of police resources, privacy, and security.
Regional council voted in favour of a staff recommendation to accept the report and 26 of its 29 recommendations at its meeting on Tuesday. Most of the recommendations were released publicly in the staff report to council, but the report itself is noted under the in camera section of the agenda, marked “Public Security Matter,” and not available to the public.
When Coun. Waye Mason asked why the report is in camera, chief administrative officer Jacques Dubé told council he could release a “heavily redacted” version, but not the whole thing.
“That report is actually full of sensitive information,” Dubé said.
“It deals with how police deploy, allocate resources, estimate response times and how they deploy resources operationally. There’s also privacy concerns related to stats noted in the (criminal investigations division) section that could potentially identify those accused but not charged, as well as potentially compromise the identity of suicide victims and their families.”
There’s also a section on court delays which Dubé said could compromise investigations that are still ongoing, and one on information technology security that could expose police to security threats and jeopardize ongoing audits.
“And finally, releasing the report without full context or explanation because of the above risks could lead to confusion and misunderstanding among the public,” he said.
Privacy lawyer David Fraser disagrees that the report should be redacted at all.
“That’s not at all sensitive,” he wrote on Twitter.
“That’s an administrative and public policy review of the provision of basic public services. There’s no reason, on its face and according to the description in that document, to redact any of it.”
“Frankly, if someone thinks that an external consultant’s report about how well we are served by the HRP and RCMP is too ‘sensitive’ for public scrutiny, we have much bigger problems. The citizens of HRP have a right to know and to question whether the current arrangement works.”
Dubé told the Examiner on Tuesday that he would prepare a redacted version of the report and release it to media, but he said that process would take weeks.
The report by B.C.-based consulting firm perivale + taylor cost $195,940, according to the provincial tender website, and landed at city hall in November.
The report stems from a 2018 request from Coun. Lorelei Nicoll “to engage an expert to conduct an HRM wide service review of the appropriate composition” of Halifax Regional Police and Halifax-district RCMP. Nicoll was clear she did not want to look into the efficiency of Halifax’s unique model of municipal police services mixed with the RCMP (other jurisdictions pick one or the other).
The objective of the report was to provide Dubé with recommendations to address gaps in service and save money.
The response to several of the recommendations indicates police are already implementing them, including changing the reporting structure in cells at Halifax Regional Police headquarters and changing the reporting structure for exhibits.
Seven of the recommendations are listed as “Nine HRP sworn positions should be considered for civilianization” and recommended for implementation. It’s not clear which positions those refer to and Kinsella wouldn’t elaborate when talking to reporters on Tuesday.
“No, I can’t tell you,” he said. “That’s part of the in camera piece of the report that’s gone to council so I’m not in a position to share those with you.”
Kinsella said he’s not even sure those positions will be civilianized because he’s still reviewing them and they’ll have to work with the union.
The three recommendations not accepted are: that “Airport policing should be seamless with the police of jurisdiction,” instead of contracted out to one force;” that Halifax should develop new memorandums of understanding between the municipality and the RCMP through the province; and that “HRM-wide crime and public safety priorities, objectives, and goals” should be approved by council.
Airport policing isn’t recommended for change because Halifax Regional Police currently have a contract for it. The other two recommendations don’t comply with the governance structure of Halifax Regional Police, Dubé said.