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

Policies made public ahead of Wednesday’s meeting of the Halifax Board of Police Commissioners shed more light on the cops’ so-called extra-duty assignments.

Last month, the board asked Halifax Regional Police and RCMP to publish those policies, governing how officers can work in full uniform as armed security for companies like Superstore or Shoppers Drug Mart.

In response, Halifax Regional Police released 23 pages of policy documents pertaining to both extra-duty and off-duty employment.

The extra-duty policies indicate HRP officers can add their names to a list for extra-duty assignments annually. They can have their name removed from the list throughout the year, but can only have it added at the beginning. Officers are paid through their normal paycheques, with the money flowing from the business or group hiring the extra-duty work through the municipality.

Officers, “wherever possible,” are supposed to be on their second or third days off (of four) to work extra duty. Officers can’t transfer extra-duty work among themselves, and risk getting their names removed from the list for breaking with policy. Officers off on suspension, injury, or medical leave or who are on modified duties are ineligible for extra work.

Unless they’re directed to be in plain clothes, officers are required to be in full uniform for extra work, and they typically sign out portable radios.

When officers are working on “liquor establishment details,” they are not to “become doormen or bouncers.” They’re only to go inside “with specific cause or in the process of a complaint investigation.”

Businesses or groups can request officers through the chief, the “Extra Work Clerk,” or another designated person using a form that can be dropped off at headquarters. Officers are not to “make private arrangements” to work extra duty, and are to forward requests to the Extra Work Clerk. The requests must include the nature of duties, the number of hours required, the name of the group or business, and the method of payment. Those include whether the officers requested should be in plain clothes.

“The request must be compatible and consistent with the duties of a police officer and the policies or regulations of the Board,” the policy says.

The policies make reference to the “extra duty rate” but don’t assign a dollar value. The policies suggest HRP is sometimes paid in cash for extra work, with the Extra Work Clerk’s designate authorized to “collect the cash and forward it to the Extra Duty Work Clerk.” Officers are not to be paid in cash directly except under that circumstance.

Chief Dan Kinsella told the board during Wednesday’s virtual meeting that businesses or groups pay administrative fees and they pay extra if they require a police vehicle on site.

Kinsella said extra-duty work is common across the country, and it’s used for everything from street events to the NSLC.

“There are some certain benefits to extra duty. They have a police presence and whatever it may be a road race, a parade, a private business that wants to hire police,” Kinsella said.

“Generally, private businesses that hire them have some sort of compelling reason to have the police. Either violence has occurred or something of that nature, where they feel that the presence of a police officer will be a deterrent to the extent that potential criminality may not occur because the officer is there.”

The other policy tabled Wednesday relates to off-duty work by officers.

“It’s not related to policing, they don’t wear the uniform, they don’t take any of their equipment with them and they carry on with whatever their particular endeavour is,” Kinsella said. “And we have a myriad of all kinds of jobs that people participate in. The [RCMP] inspector mentioned reserves, that’s one. Woodworking, cabinet making, DJ services, those kinds of things.”

Officers are required to apply to the chief at the start of the year describing the work they want to do. There’s a list in the policy of jobs they can’t do, including: bill collector, security guard, taxi or limousine driver, owner of an alcohol or gambling establishment, insurance adjustor, private investigator, escort, process server, armoured car driver, body guard, and more.

There’s no such list of extra-duty jobs that won’t be accepted, but Kinsella suggested last month that the board could add a list to those policies, too.

Now that the board has those policies, it plans to review and revise them in the coming months. Also during Wednesday’s meeting, Kinsella tabled a list of other policies that will soon become public as the force works its way through a refreshing of its policy book.

The RCMP also tabled a report on its extra-duty and off-duty work policies. In short, the Mounties don’t do extra-duty work because they’re paid exclusively by the government, “no third-party agreements or billing is permitted.”

Similar to HRP officers, RCMP officers must apply to their superiors to perform off-duty work. In the last 10 years, officers have worked as “Canadian Armed Forces Support,” “Airport VIP Transport,” “Radio Station Support,” “Funeral Home Hearse Driver,” “Law School Instructor,” and more.

Race-based data collection

At the beginning of Wednesday’s meeting, El Jones gave a presentation on the collection of race-based data and use of force data by police.

Jones’ presentation used the example of use of force data in Toronto, which found Black people were overrepresented in enforcement actions generally, in having firearms pointed at them by police, and in use of force.

Building on a September 2022 report by researcher Timothy Bryan, which recommended the provincial Department of Justice require police collect race-based data in all stops, Jones argued the board should require Halifax Regional Police to collect race-based data on use of force incidents.

The province accepted Bryan’s recommendations, but it’s unclear where they are now in the process of requiring the data be collected.

Commissioner Harry Critchley, elected vice chair during Wednesday’s meeting, moved for a staff report outlining how Halifax Regional Police and Halifax-district RCMP are responding to Bryan’s report. That motion passed. Coun. Lindell Smith, chair of the board, also signalled he’ll write a letter to the province to ask about its progress.

Victim services

Critchley was met with resistance in bringing another motion forward to the board on Wednesday.

The vice chair moved for a staff reports from Halifax Regional Police and Halifax-district RCMP “outlining strategies for improving the accessibility of Victim Services, including the feasibility of, and possible advantages and disadvantages of, making Victim Services independent from police services.”

Removing victim services from police is a common recommendation, from the the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, which recommended, “Victim services must be independent from prosecution services and police services.”

More recently, a 2022 report a 2022 report, “We Matter and Our Voices Must be Heard,” prepared by the Avalon Sexual Assault Centre, the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund, and Wellness Within for the Mass Casualty Commission, came to a similar conclusion.

“Our findings reveal that Victim Services are lacking in accessibility, and too often have barriers in place for survivors of domestic violence and sexual violence. Victim services supports are also attached to RCMP, HRP and police, which is a barrier for many marginalized victims who have experienced or witnessed violence from the police,” they wrote.

But according to municipal lawyer Marty Ward, the Nova Scotia Police Act requires victim services to fall under the police umbrella. The act says “the service provided by a police department shall include,” among other services, “assistance to victims of crime.” It’s not exactly prescriptive in terms of how that service should be provided.

Disagreements between Critchley and Ward have become increasingly common during board meetings, with Ward questioning the board’s jurisdiction to carry out Critchley’s ideas.

On Wednesday, Critchley agreed to withdraw the motion pending the municipality’s ongoing review of police services, which chief administrative officer Jacques Dubé said includes a look at victim services.

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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. A couple of points from yesterday’s meeting which I watched concurrently with the Blue Jays – Orioles double header:
    1. The Police Act mandates that the Police Board establish a written policy regarding extra-duty and off-duty employment of HRM police officers. Does anyone but me find it ironic that the Board had to request these policies from the Police Chief. It is not evident that any of the Board members were aware of the content of these policies and were not involved in establishing them.
    2. “The policies suggest HRP is sometimes paid in cash for extra work.” The Board might want to reconsider this policy, as it would seem to me to increase the risk of corruption or, atleast, the perception of it.
    3. Kinsella advised that extra-duty work included work for the NSLC but the extra-duty policy states that officers are to only enter the premises with specific cause or in the process of a complaint investigation. I’ve recently seen uniformed HRM police officers carrying a firearm inside the NSLC outlets on Barrington St. and Queen St. There was no action going on and it seemed that they were just standing guard. A cashier told me that extra security is being deployed because theft has jumped in NSLC outlets recently which I suspect is linked to the jump in inflation.
    4. If the Board is to pursue race based data collection, they should consider getting an independent consultant to design the program. Asking HRM police to do this work would be like asking foxes to guard the hen house.
    5. The municipal solicitor advised that the Police Act requires that victim services fall under police responsibilities. So why can’t the Board request that the Province amend that act. Requests to amend the HRM Charter are made frequently and are often successful.