The provincial government is launching a review of the structure of policing in Nova Scotia following a recommendation from the Mass Casualty Commission.

The commission’s final report into the April 2020 mass shootings called for an overhaul of policing across Canada. Specific to Nova Scotia, it called on the government to review the structure of police in the province ahead of the 2032 expiry of its contract with the RCMP.

While provinces like Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador have their own provincial police services, Nova Scotia uses the RCMP instead. The Mass Casualty Commission exposed flaws in that system, particularly in rural areas. Halifax Regional Municipality also employees a unique, ostensibly integrated, policing model with Halifax Regional Police and RCMP sharing duties.

Two uniformed officers stand on a roadway between two vehicles. In the background is downtown Halifax on a partly cloudy day.
An RCMP officer and an HRP officer stand together on Citadel Hill in a photo from a budget presentation to council in 2020. Credit: HRM

On Friday, the province issued a request for proposals (RFP) for a “Comprehensive Nova Scotia Policing Review.”

Contractor, committee to review current model

The Department of Justice, the RFP said, “is seeking a qualified proponent to conduct the Review to determine the most effective and efficient policing model for the Province based on criteria such as mechanisms of operational effectiveness, administrative feasibility, police-citizen interactions, cost effectiveness, Nova Scotians perceptions and feelings of safety, equity, and political feasibility.”

The objective “is to evaluate the current policing model to ensure that Nova Scotians receive the most effective and efficient policing services available.”

“We are committed to making our communities safer, and a big part of that work is ensuring our policing services are effective, efficient and structured in a way that best serves Nova Scotians,” Justice Minister Brad Johns said in a news release.

The department said the contractor will work with a new police review advisory committee, “which will include people from equity-deserving groups, the provincial government, police agencies, subject matter experts and diverse community representatives.”

Retired Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Clare MacLellan and Department of Justice executive director of Public Safety and Security Hayley Crichton will chair the committee.

The department said it sent letters to “policing agencies and community organizations seeking nominations for committee members,” and it will announce them later.

RFP details

That successful bidder will measure the current state of policing in the province “against established evidence-informed practices;” determine whether it can or should be improved; and “recommend specific steps, inclusive of estimated costs and timelines, required to transition from its current police service delivery model to any recommended options on or before the 2032 expiry of the Provincial Police Service Agreement” for use of the RCMP as Nova Scotia’s provincial police service.

“Among other aspects, the Review will examine police response times, allocation of resources, training and preparation of law enforcement officers, the potential to de-task police from certain duties, and the prevention of violence with a focus on gender-based violence,” the RFP said.

The review will explore “provincial, regionalized, Maritime, and Atlantic policing models.”

Final report due before April 2025

The RFP lists a series of deadlines. By the end of January 2024, the contractor must submit a report to Justice Minister Brad Johns “containing findings from a comprehensive jurisdictional scan of related reviews across Canada and other comparable jurisdictions, inclusive of a categorized database of findings or recommendations potentially relevant to improving community safety in Nova Scotia.”

Before the end of July 2024, the contractor will submit a report detailing its progress and key findings and identifying any obstacles to finishing the review on time.

By the end of 2024, the contractor will have worked with the committee to gather “information, opinions, and perspectives on policing in Nova Scotia from numerous interested parties including the public, experts, existing policing services, other governmental departments, and non-police service providers.”

The contractor’s final report is due by the end of March 2025. It will contain recommend “specific steps, inclusive of estimated costs and timelines, required to transition from Nova Scotia’s current policing service delivery model to any recommended option(s) on or before” 2032.

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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