Halifax Regional Police Chief Dan Kinsella announced his retirement on Wednesday, giving less than 10 days notice.
Kinsella, who became chief in July 2019, made the announcement in a news release just before a Board of Police Commissioners meeting.
“After 37 years of policing, today I am announcing my retirement. It’s been an honour and a privilege, and I am grateful to the Halifax Board of Police Commissioners and Halifax Regional Council for the opportunity to serve as Chief of Police for the last four years,” Kinsella said.
“My greatest thanks go out to HRP members whose professionalism and dedication I have witnessed with the greatest pride and gratitude, to members of Hamilton Police Service before then and all those professionals that I’ve had the honour to serve alongside.”
Kinsella came to Halifax after 33 years in Hamilton. His retirement is effective Sept. 15.
Chair thanks chief for leading through ‘tumultuous period’
During the police board meeting, Kinsella went on to thank his family ”for their undying support and love throughout all of these years.”
Coun. Becky Kent, chair of the Board of Police Commissioners, thanked Kinsella and his family too.
“I think it’s important that we acknowledge that since starting your role in 2019, Chief Kinsella has led Halifax Regional Police through a tumultuous period,” Kent said.
“Looking back at the number of years we’ve been here recently and the way you came in, it’s been nothing but challenging.”
Those challenging circumstances included “a global pandemic, growing calls for accountability in policing internationally and locally, certainly, and tragedies that impacted our own communities, our own province and the nation,” Kent said.
Chief apologized for street checks, took heat for protest
One of Kinsella’s first major acts as chief, in November 2019, was to apologize for HRP’s use of street checks, found to disproportionately affect Black people. Also during his few months, Kinsella changed policy to stop officers from taking their service weapons home. That was after a cop was accused of shoplifting holding her HRP-issued 9mm.
Kinsella’s time as chief coincided with increasing criticism toward policing following the murder of George Floyd. He routinely invoked what he described as a negative perception of police during budget discussions. In 2021, he cited a “dramatic increase in activism” as one of the reasons police staffing was in “dire straits.”
In his comments at Wednesday’s meeting, Kinsella thanked “community members whose voices are helping to shape a new era in policing.
“Keep it up,” he said.
The chief caught criticism for the police response to protesters blocking the removal of temporary shelters in August 2021. Kinsella defended officers’ use of force, including indiscriminately pepper spraying the crowd outside the former Halifax Memorial Library.
Rank and file disliked chief
While he often defended and praised them in public, Kinsella’s officers didn’t feel the chief had their backs.
Last year, 84% of members of the Halifax Regional Police Association cast ballots in a symbolic vote of non-confidence against Kinsella. Of those who voted, 96.6% reported they did not have confidence in Kinsella’s ability to lead HRP.
In a statement Wednesday evening, union president Darla Perry wished Kinsella well “in whatever his future holds.”
“The past few years have been challenging by all accounts and the policing community has not been void of those summonses,” Perry wrote.
“The HRPA union looks forward to working collaboratively with the management team as has been our practice. With every departure there is opportunity and we welcome the chance to work with those that will fill this vacancy.”
Kinsella said he will support the municipality through the transition period and the search for a new chief.
Cathie O’Toole, HRM chief administrative officer, said the municipality will work with the board “to support a smooth leadership transition for Halifax Regional Police.” The board will appoint an acting chief by Sept. 15 and start a process to hire Kinsella’s replacement this fall.