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Halifax looks to assess public opinion, trust of municipal police forces

Advocates call for defunding Halifax police
WATCH: To increase capacity for COVID-19 response, Halifax cut the police budget by $3.5 million. Now, Halifax advocates are asking for a larger cut and defunding of police.

Police forces in Halifax are looking to find out the level of “public trust and confidence in policing” in the municipality.

The details are revealed in a request for proposals (RFP) published on Nova Scotia’s tender website Tuesday.

Respondents are being asked to provide a suite of services that would allow the Halifax Regional Police (HRP) and Halifax District RCMP to “establish an ongoing program of measurement of quality of policing services, citizen satisfaction and public confidence in policing in Halifax.”

Read more: Halifax council votes in favour of cancelling armoured vehicle purchase

Those services include public engagement sessions that would help police design a set of themes or questions that would allow them to measure support or the lack thereof.

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Halifax police are also looking to have a survey — informed by the public engagement sessions — that would deliver a “population-representative survey of Halifax residents.”

The forces are also looking for a way to survey diverse communities that wouldn’t be “adequately” captured in a population-representative survey.

Diverse communities used as an example in the RFP include African Nova Scotians, newcomers, LGBTQ2 and youth.

Permanent data collection system for police stops in Nova Scotia still not established
Permanent data collection system for police stops in Nova Scotia still not established

The survey can be conducted through any combination of telephone, paper, online or other survey strategies.

Police say they’re also looking for ways to continue measuring trust and confidence after the initial survey has been designed and delivered.

A spokesperson for the Halifax police said that the survey is nothing new and that the HRM has conducted them a number of times over the years.

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“There have also been discussions held over the last several months with the Board of Police Commissioners, and it is something that the Commissioners have supported as a way of soliciting community feedback,” said Const. Dylan Jackman in a statement.

Read more: Nova Scotia still no closer to setting date for street checks apology

Last month, Halifax Regional Council recently voted 16 to 1 in favour of cancelling an already awarded contract for a controversial armoured vehicle.

Before the vote, Halifax councillors had been inundated by calls and emails to defund police and reverse course on its purchase of an armoured vehicle.

But that’s only the most recent example of why police forces in the municipality might be looking to take the temperature of the general public.

The Wortley Report found that both the RCMP and the Halifax Regional Police practice of street checks — involving a police officer randomly stopping people and collecting personal information — were disproportionately targeting the Black community in the HRM.

Produced by criminologist Scot Wortley, the report analyzed data from the Halifax Regional Police and the RCMP and concluded that Black citizens five times more likely to be street-checked than white citizens.

Halifax policing policy group calls for civilian oversight of police
Halifax policing policy group calls for civilian oversight of police

The province implemented a permanent moratorium on the practice of street checks in October after an independent legal opinion found the practice to be illegal.

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Halifax police have issued an apology for the practice while the province’s RCMP have not.

Read more: Case against Santina Rao moving forward despite calls for charges to be dropped

The violent arrest of a mother at a Halifax-area Walmart earlier this year has also been sharply criticized after Santina Rao alleged she was racially profiled and “aggressively punched” by an HRP officer.

Next week will also mark a year since Halifax Regional Police chief Daniel Kinsella was sworn in.

Police may be looking to find out what effect his appointment and the apology he issued for the practice of street checks may have had on public opinion.

The RFP notes that the suite of services needs to be cost-effective.

The tender closes on July 14, 2020.