A grassroots coalition in Nova Scotia, that is in part aimed at increasing civilian oversight over policing, says conversations about police defunding and accountability need to be focused on public engagement.
“What we want is a genuinely public discussion about defunding the police. Not a public discussion about a definition of defunding the police, a public discussion about reallocating budgetary resources from the police forces and putting them in community organizations orientated towards community safety,” said Tari Ajadi, a political science PhD student at Dalhousie University and member of the Nova Scotia Policing Policy Working Group.
The NS PPWG says one of its members, El Jones, was asked to lead a committee aimed at recommending a definition of ‘defunding the police’ to the Halifax Board of Police Commissioners.
Ajadi says the police board should be looking far beyond a definition and instead focusing their efforts on engaging the community through public hearings that discuss widespread policing concerns.
Those concerns range from systemic racism to accountability over use of force, as well as making Halifax Regional Police policies concerning the use of force accessible to the public.
“We’ve released press releases outlining a process that we’d like to undertake to engage in some of this work — to engage with the board, to facilitate a public hearing where folks could come speak to their experiences with the police, speak to where they would like to see some of these resources go,” Ajadi said.
The Halifax Board of Police Commissioners held a virtual meeting on Monday with several motions on the agenda.
One of the agenda items concerned defunding the police, but there was confusion over whether the board had previously voted in favour of appointing a committee.
Several commissioners, including Lindell Smith and Tony Mancini, said they were of the understanding that the July 20 meeting would involve further discussion about the potential creation of a community advisory committee.
“What we thought was we were going to have that discussion on whether or not we were going to create that committee today, because there was no debate whatsoever on that item during that day, and we all decided not to have debate, assuming we were going to have debate today,” Commissioner Smith said.
Commissioner Tony Mancini sided with Smith, claiming it was understood that further discussion on the potential creation of an advisory committee would be held during Monday’s meeting.
“We didn’t agree upon creating a committee. That’s where our expectation was today. We were going to have that discussion,” Mancini said.
The board ended up going in-camera to discuss the matter and ultimately decided on deferring the discussion about defunding the police to a future meeting.