Halifax Regional Police Chief Dan Kinsella speaks to the board of police commissioners during a meeting on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020. Photo: Zane Woodford

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With 28 positions proposed to be left vacant this year, Halifax’s chief of police says there is work that won’t get done, but there’ll be no impact on public safety from budget cuts due to COVID-19.

“It’s self-evident. There’s positions that are not filled, there’s going to be work we can’t do,” Halifax Regional Police Chief Dan Kinsella told the board of police commissioners on Monday.

“We’re not going to let it affect public safety.”

Kinsella presented his plan to cut $5.5 million from his fiscal 2020-2021 budget to the first-ever virtual meeting of the city’s board of police commissioners on Monday. That’s a 6.1% cut to the force’s originally-approved budget, bringing it down to $84.3 million.

The board deferred its vote on the budget and recommended that Kinsella meet with the police union, the Halifax Regional Police Association, to consult with them on the budget cut.

About $4 million of the cut to police comes from compensation. There are currently 18 vacancies (nine sworn officers and nine civilian positions) that wouldn’t be filled. There are another 10 expected retirements (eight sworn officers and two civilians) that wouldn’t be filled either.

There are also six term layoffs, which Kinsella said are administrative positions, and crossing guards won’t be back on the job till at least September. HRP are also budgeting for 25% reductions in both overtime and court time.

“What was really a priority to me going into this was the question of layoffs,” said board chair Natalie Borden.

“It’s certainly worth noting at this time that we are not entertaining layoffs of officers or front-line staff at this time.”

Kinsella didn’t say what work wouldn’t get done without the positions filled, but he did say that police would focus on priority areas like responding to 911 calls and continuing investigations.

The proposal also cuts $1.5 million worth of contracted services, equipment, and others goods and services.

Halifax chief financial officer Jane Fraser said the force was originally given a target of $10 million in cuts — equal to 11% of the original budget — as part of a more aggressive plan across the municipality. That plan was withdrawn after it became clear there’d be layoffs across many departments.

Fraser said there’d been no cuts to any capital budgets involving police. That means the purchase of armoured vehicle approved in last year’s budget is still going ahead. There has been a delay in the production of the vehicle and police have yet to receive it or pay for it.

Regional council’s budget committee meets Tuesday to begin the process of rebuilding the city’s budget with $85.4 million in cuts.

Kinsella may consult with the union before bringing the proposed cuts back to the board. The board will then make a recommendation to regional council before May 19.

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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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