The RCMP’s Halifax detachment wants money from the Halifax Regional Municipality to help pay for seven more officers, including two intimate partner violence investigators.
Chief Supt. Jeffrey Christie, Darrell Harvey with the RCMP, and Insp. Jeff Mitchell made a presentation about the funding request to the Halifax board of police commissioners on Wednesday night. The request includes funding for four general duty officers, an assistant detachment commander, and two intimate partner violence investigators, which are new roles for the Halifax detachment.
Harvey noted changes in policing in HRM, including increased calls for extreme weather, the Tantallon wildfires, and calls in connection to homeless encampments in the city and Lower Sackville.
The funding request was also based on findings from the Policing Model Transformation Study published earlier this year.
The assistant detachment commander would serve in a deputy chief role and have oversight over RCMP operations. The presentation noted that commander would be a “key command position in HRM integrated policing and HRM Public Safety Office.”
Mitchell said the request for general duty officers is to match increased population growth in HRM, the impact of mental health calls, and increased number of calls connected to homelessness, and climate change.
“I don’t have to mention that the past year has been difficult on the residents of HRM and members and first responders,” Mitchell said. “If you listen to climate experts, these unprecedented incidents are probably going to become more of the norm.”
There are now 200 RCMP officers in HRM, and 188 of those officers are funded by HRM with the other 12 being funded by the province.
Intimate partner violence investigators
There are currently no officers dedicated to investigating intimate partner violence cases in HRM. In the presentation, Christie said the RCMP receive 600 to 1,000 domestic violence calls a year, with 100-plus of those calls considered high risk.
The intimate partner violence investigators would have the rank of constable, but also have specific training for the role and would work closely with victim services.
“It’s entirely likely we will be able to staff [those roles] with female investigators reflecting the mathematical reality that often there is a gender mathematical breakdown of more females who are victims than males,” Christie said.
Christie said one investigator would likely be assigned to the Lower Sackville and Tantallon area, while the other investigator would be assigned to Cole Harbour. The investigators would be a point of contact and work with other women’s organizations in safety planning to help get women out of intimate partner violence situations.
From the RCMP funding request:
IPV files often require in-depth investigations. Due to their domestic nature, the situations are often complex and benefit from consistency given multiple protocols and frameworks guiding police and victim response. It is also recognized that IPV files/ incidents are often under reported. IPV files are inherently high risk and require experienced and trained investigators.
While high-priority files can be reassigned from watch to watch, a dedicated investigator will have a more consistent shift pattern with greater accessibility victims and services providers. This request is in alignment with best practices found within policing. The RCMP recognizes the complexity of these investigative files and the
need to provide enhanced services to victims, clients, partners and suspects.
These positions will create a de facto specialized unit. These members would work alongside our High-Risk Domestic Violence (IPV) and victims service coordinators. Members assigned as dedicated IPV investigators would provide easier access for victims, based on their schedules and mandate alone, thereby removing barriers.
Commissioner Harry Critchley noted that intimate partner violence is epidemic in Canada and said it was “shameful” how underfunded women’s organizations are. Critchley said recent news stories have reported how Bryony House in Halifax was sending letters to its clients saying they could only stay at the shelter for two months.
Critchley asked Christie how the hiring of two intimate partner investigators works with the Mass Casualty Commission findings that mandatory arrest and charging in intimate partner violent cases have failed to keep women safe, and in some cases increased harm toward women.
“I’m agreeing that specialized resources are always valuable, especially in relation to a critical issue such as this,” Critchley said.
“But my question is if those resources are existing within a policy framework that a national commission of inquiry has found to be ineffective, is that going to continue to have unintended consequences?”
Christie said the RCMP need to “innovate” and always ask “how can we do better?” and that RCMP would adapt if there were legislative changes around mandatory arrest and charge policies regarding domestic violence.
“I would personally argue there will always be important investigational work done given the risk around domestic violence,” Christie said. “I think it comes back to when people call the police, the RCMP, they need the best we can provide them with such complex files.”
Also at Wednesday’s meeting, Halifax Regional Police chief Don MacLean presented a more detailed report on the department’s 2024-2025 budget.