A uniformed police officer stands next to oranges and lemons near the entrance of a grocery store.
A Halifax Regional Police officer posted in the produce section of the Braemar Superstore in August 2022. — Photo: Zane Woodford

The police board has voted to make the Halifax Regional Police policies on extra-duty and off-duty employment public following criticism about officers working security at local grocery stores.

The Board of Police Commissioners met virtually on Wednesday, its first full meeting since the public started noticing Halifax Regional Police officers guarding produce at their local Superstores.

As the Halifax Examiner reported in August, officers in full uniform, weapons included, were spotted at Superstore locations and neither the police or the company had much to say about it:

Const. John MacLeod, spokesperson for Halifax Regional Police, didn’t reply to questions specific to Superstore, but said private businesses are able to hire off-duty officers.

“We have an extra duty program that is staffed by officers who volunteer to fill positions while off duty,” MacLeod wrote in an email.

“Business, organizations, public and private events can place requests for officers to conduct policing duties on or near their facilities and are responsible for the associated costs. These requests do not draw from our primary policing duties and are only filled if there are officers available from the extra duty program.”

Mark Boudreau, director of corporate affairs for Loblaw Companies Limited, Superstore’s parent company, declined an interview request to talk about why the grocery chain is using police to secure its stores: “we don’t comment on the specifics of our various in-store loss prevention or security measures.”

Coun. Lindell Smith brought a motion to Wednesday’s meeting in response to public criticism about the cops’ corporate moonlighting.

“I’ve heard concerns from residents as councillor and police commissioner, from folks who feel they shouldn’t see police in private businesses,” Smith said.

“I think because of the public interest, it’s important for us as a board to at least have a discussion around the issue.”

The board is mandated by the Police Act to create a policy specifically for extra-duty and off-duty employment. Instead of creating its own, the board voted in January 2021, as part of approving its policy manual, to simply adopt HRP’s policy. Its policy outlining its lack of a policy is posted online.

“Halifax Regional Police has a comprehensive policy that states clearly how the policy should be applied and that the Chief of HRP approves requests for these categories of employment. (Department Order #: 04-09 Previously issued under #s 39-07 and 31-02),” the “purpose” section reads.

“This policy recommends that the BOPC adopt the comprehensive guidelines established in the Department Order noted above. It has been the practice of the BOPC to approve off-duty employment for the Chief of HRP and this policy once adopted, will continue that practice.”

That policy “may be distributed to all Board of Police Commissioners, CAO, Municipal Clerk, HRM Councillors, the Chiefs, and their respective departments, Nova Scotia Association of Police Governance and posted on HRM website with link to HRP website,” according to the board. But it’s not posted online, and if a citizen asks for it, they don’t get it.

Chief Dan Kinsella told the board there’s a review of all HRP policies underway, and this one can in fact be made public.

“We have looked at the policy. It is a little dated but certainly was recognized as being very comprehensive,” Kinsella said.

“This is certainly one of the policies that we can provide. We can make it public facing, we could probably refresh it fairly quickly, particularly with the interest I’m hearing from the board.”

Kinsella noted there are two policies: an extra-duty policy and an off-duty policy. He said the off-duty policy includes a set of occupations that officers can’t do when they’re off-duty, including process server and security guard. He suggested a list like that could be dropped into the extra-duty policy.

Kinsella said he’s planning to bring a report to the board next month on the general review of policies, and he could bring it back then after formatting the policy on HRP’s new template.

Coun. Lisa Blackburn suggested the RCMP policy should be made public too, pointing out she’d never seen a Mountie guarding the NSLC. Acting commander of the Halifax-district RCMP Jeremie Landry said he could bring the board a report detailing the RCMP policies.

Smith redrafted his motion on the fly, and the board voted unanimously in favour:

That the Board of Police Commissioners direct the chief of the Halifax Regional Police and Halifax-district Royal Canadian Mounted Police to:

  1. Present to the board written policies respecting extra-duty employment by members of the Halifax Regional Police and Royal Canadian Mounted Police for review;
  2. Review s. 56(1) of the Police Act that requires that the board establish a written policy for extra-duty employment and off-duty employment by police officers and ensure the board is adhering to our legislative duties; and
  3. Make current policies available to the public as referenced in the Halifax Board of Police Commissioners Policy Manual.

Chief to report on Police Review Board recommendations

Also during Wednesday’s meeting, Smith moved for a staff report asking the chief to respond to recommendations from the Nova Scotia Police Review Board.

The board made three recommendations for the police in a decision in May regarding the officers in Corey Rogers’ case.

Rogers died in Halifax Regional Police cells after he was arrested for public intoxication. As the Examiner reported in June, the board released a decision regarding punishment for two of the officers who brought him to cells, constables Justin Murphy and Donna Lee Paris, who received 30- and 29-day suspensions, respectively.

In its decision, the board included the following recommendations for Halifax Regional Police:

Although HRP are not before the Board, charged with anything, the Board feels after hearing all the evidence obligated to suggest HRP should implement for its officers (if it has not began to do so already) education in:

  1. Recognizing the signs of extreme intoxication;
  2. Addiction informed approaches to interacting with intoxicated people, and any other form of crisis intervention training that will assist in preparing the Officers for interacting with members of the public living with addiction in the course of their police duties; and
  3. De-escalation and conflict management when dealing with civilians, but particularly those who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Smith’s motion called on Kinsella to write a staff report including whether police are implementing the recommendations, and if not, why not; “what training and education is in place for officers for the three topics outlined in the Nova Scotia Police Review Board decision;” “highlighting improvement opportunities in education or training related to the outlined topics; and “a plan to address the necessary improvements.”

Blackburn noted HRM is still working on a report into the idea of sobering centres as an alternative for the so-called drunk tank where Rogers died, and Kinsella should work with those staff in preparing his report.

Kinsella told the board there have been changes made since Rogers’ death, including the addition of supervisors to the cells and the restricted use of spit hoods.

Policing review underway

Halifax’s former deputy police chief is working on the city’s review of the joint HRP-RCMP policing model.

As the Examiner reported last year, the municipality launched that review following a vote from council, 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.”

It tendered for a contractor last December, and has since hired Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC). Chief administrative officer Jacques Dubé also hired former deputy chief Bill Moore to act as a liason between the contractor and HRM.

During a presentation at the board’s meeting on Wednesday, Moore and Josh Oviatt with PwC updated the board on their progress.

They said a preliminary report is coming to Halifax regional council toward the end of this year, likely in November, outlining the first two of five phases. The final report will recommend a preferred policing model for Halifax and a path to implementation.

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Zane Woodford is the Halifax Examiner’s municipal reporter. He covers Halifax City Hall and contributes to our ongoing PRICED OUT housing series. Twitter @zwoodford

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  1. I’m still totally confused as to who makes and approves policies for HRP – the policy board? the chief? The governance is a mess and from what I can tell the Chief is basically in charge with little accountability to any elected officials.

  2. If the officer is “off duty” and working for a private enterprise, then they have no business being in uniform, and they certainly have no business carrying their sidearm!

    Public and private security are different and separate for very good reasons, although recent experience would suggest that nobody in HRP or Council understands that.

    1. Totally agree with your point.  What I found interesting is that I went to the LCBO outlet beside the Superstore on Barrington St. late this afternoon before reading Zane’s article or your comments.  There was an HRM cop in full uniform with a side arm.  
      This was the first time that I can remember that there has been a uniformed cop providing security services.  Normally, if there is security present, it is a person in a private security uniform but with no side arm.

    2. Yes. Unless I misunderstand things all of their equipment is owned by the city.

      I know when I do private work “off duty” from my employer I certainly am expected to use my own equipment.

      Any time the state is providing resources towards protecting corporate interests in exchange for money especially when those resources are weapons it brings a nearly endless list of conflicts of interest and ethical issues with it.
      If the city isn’t equally arming private security companies it also brings in a problem of unfair competition with private industry, Who does the grocery giant hire? Unarmed private security company X or armed city off duty police officer Y whose equipment is subsidized by the city? The choice seems obvious and that’s a problem.

    3. I agree. Does Loblaws pay the city to pay the police, or pay the officers directly?
      This does not fit with the chronic complaint that police are underfunded and not able to carry out all their duties. They have time to be hired as mall cops. Would that time be better spent – even at over-time wages (compared to new hires) – working for the PD? Maybe in a softer role to give them a rest, if being too tired to work is an issue – but not too tired to work at a grocery store.

    4. Are you new to Halifax ? Police officers at NSLC were frequently seen especially on busy days, private security have replaced HRP – cheaper. I see many articles about lousy behaviour by customers in various retail outlets across the country and Halifax Transit drivers are sick of people swearing and threatening them.