A definition of defunding the police is expected in May after the Halifax Board of Police Commissioners approved terms of reference on Monday for a new committee.
The board voted in September to appoint poet, professor, and activist El Jones, who’s also a contributor to the Halifax Examiner, to chair the committee. At that time, the committee approved Jones’ proposal for a committee to research the concept of defunding the police, conduct public hearings and present findings to the board.
On Monday, the final proposed terms of reference for Committee to Define Defunding Police came to the board for approval, and received unanimous approval.
The terms (the last three pages of this document) say the committee will “review relevant research and conduct community engagements to allow citizens to express their view regarding the definition of Defunding Police.”
More specifically, “The committee will:
- “Collaboratively review research relevant to policing, board policy, municipal precedents and current literature
- “Conduct virtual public meetings to invite citizen submissions and to gather feedback that will inform the final recommendations
- “Provide a report with recommendations for the BoPC to consider how to define defunding police
- “Follow HRM’s practice of making meeting minutes and agenda’s available to the public.”
The committee’s final report, expected in May, will include a definition of defunding, an “overview of the current research and debate around defunding,” examples from other municipalities, a summary of presentations from citizens, and a summary of “what defunding could look like in HRM.”
The board voted in December to allocate up to $9,000 for the committee, and the terms of reference say that money will be used to facilitate virtual meetings and reimburse committee members and public participants “to cover child care and/or transportation if required.”
The committee’s membership will include Jones; OmiSoore Dryden, the James R. Johnston Chair in Black Canadian Studies at Dalhousie University; a “Physician with expertise in mental health, addiction, incarceration and an understanding of the impact of policing on marginalized communities;” a “Representative from the Decade of People of African Descent Coalition;” a “Representative from the Nova Scotia Policing Policy Working Group;” and a member of each of the following communities:
- Mi’kmaw Community
- LGBTQ2S+ community
- Disability Advocacy Community
- Housing and Homelessness
- Gender-based and intimate partner violence
- Newcomer/refugee community
Jones told the board she’s already appointed the committee members, and she’ll send the board a list.
“I think what’s most exciting about this committee is that we were able to have the majority of the committee of people with lived experience from various walks of life,” Jones said.
“We’re very happy about that because it means we’re hearing from people across the city with a range of experiences.”
Jones said the committee is in the process of scheduling meetings. She had some questions for the board in terms of how the municipality might be able to help in setting up public hearings. The committee is also planning an online survey and looking for the city’s help in disseminating that survey.
Coun. Lisa Blackburn echoed that second question, asking chief administrative officer Jacques Dubé whether the municipality will help out. Dubé said he’s open to any conversation around sharing the link on city social media accounts or the police board website. Blackburn suggested Jones contact the clerk’s office.
Coun. Becky Kent suggested the board should have some input on the questions in the committee’s survey.
“I have no issue with it being reviewed,” Jones said. “It’s fairly open-ended. We’re not asking leading questions. It’s mostly just to allow people to have input.”
Jones said the goal of the survey is to allow for input from people who disagree with the concept of defunding the police, who might not want to participate in the public hearings.
“We want voices from across the spectrum to be heard,” Jones said.
Meanwhile, the police are planning their own survey, with input from the board. After a motion on Monday, police will bring the proposed questions back to the board at its next meeting.
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Should this not be more about defining the problem? It seems to me that “Defund the Police” is a solution, possibly one of many, valid, or not! I don’t understand how or why this has become such a common rallying cry. I do understand there are legitimate and serious social justice issues at play. I also believe that policing needs to evolve in a different direction as the current model has a few shortcomings. However, the leap to the: “Defund the Police” solution, before defining the problem, undermines the credibility of those who are trying to affect change.