At its next meeting, Halifax regional council will debate a proposal for a review of policing in the city with an eye to having civilians handling mental health calls, traffic enforcement and more.
Coun. Waye Mason gave notice of motion at the end of Tuesday’s council meeting that he’ll make a motion at the next one, scheduled for Aug. 18, for a staff report “to outline a process and timeline for a broad review of policing and public safety, which shall examine the potential for shifting or creating programs for civilian delivery of non-core police functions.”
“This review shall include but not [be] limited to traffic enforcement, public safety, community standards, mental health, and municipal enforcement functions, and will include a plan for engaging with the public, stakeholders, subject matter experts and, subject to their agreement, participation of the Board of Police Commissioners.”
The motion comes just a few months after the tabling of a $200,000 review of policing that was kept secret, and amid international and local debates around defunding the police — the concept of reducing police budgets and reinvesting the money elsewhere — in the wake of the police murder of George Floyd.
After originally cancelling its meetings due to COVID-19, the Halifax board of police commissioners has been bogged down in attempts to define the concept, with meetings cut short by procedural debates. This week, the confusion at the board led it behind closed doors to hash it out.
In the reasoning portion of Mason’s motion, the peninsula south councillor writes that council, the board of police commissioners, the public and even chiefs of police have discussed “what services should and should not be delivered by police agencies in Halifax.”
“This review supports Black, Indigenous, and other racialized communities by looking to rebalance service delivery and explore alternatives to policing, with the goal to enhance community resilience through enhancement and development of alternative, complimentary civilian services.”
The review should consider collective agreements and legislative and financial implications, Mason wrote. He included a long list of items the review should consider:
- “Potential to develop and implement civilian mobile mental health crisis intervention teams.
- “Use of special constables for traffic enforcement.
- “Preparation for use of red light and photo radar when enabled by the Traffic Safety Act in 2021
- “Determination of what non-criminal code enforcement activities can be civilianized, including but not limited to 24/7 bylaw enforcement and park patrol.
- “Alternate reporting methods for criminal reports that are being reported for insurance purposes.
- “Delivery of non-core police programs such as youth programming and crossing guards.
- “Subject to BOPC participation and agreement, examination of tiered approaches to policing utilizing conventional sworn officers, new types of police (PCSO), civilians, and others.
- “Providing clarity on the role of police including defining the core purpose of policing and what is and is not delivered by police agencies under BOPC oversite [sic].”
Under the “outcome sought” portion of the notice, Mason wrote: “A plan and timeline for the creation of a set of recommendations for Council to consider regarding alternate options for delivery of non-core police functions within the Municipality. The plan must provide for public engagement, consultation with the BPOC, and periodic check ins with Council.”
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