The Halifax Board of Police Commissioners, which provides civilian governance and oversight for the Halifax Regional Police on behalf of regional council, has a brand new chair.
District 8 Coun. Lindell Smith will be taking over from Commissioner Natalie Borden, who is stepping down from the role.
Smith said the relationship between the council and the board is “great,” saying that it all comes down to providing the governance and oversight, while “making sure you’re providing the work necessary to deal with the issues that come up with the community.”
“I think having a councillor allows the board to operate in both worlds because even though the board is to give direction to the chief, the board also reports the council when it comes to budget,” said Smith.
“When the budget gets approved, it does go to council. So being able to work between those two worlds is also helpful,” he added.
In the past year, the issue of body-worn cameras came up with the chief saying that they’ll buy the cameras and build a policy around them later on how they’ll be used.
But Smith believes there should be a policy in place first.
“The biggest piece for me is when you look at the research that’s available … it’s very important that your policies are strong and not just for for the community and for residents, but also for officers as well,” he said.
“So for me, that’s why I said I think it’s important that we put the resources needed to create the policies first.”
Smith also noted that the coming year will be a very difficult time for budgeting because of the impact COVID-19 has had on the economy and the city as a whole.
“When it comes to budget, I think we need to just be very careful in how we how we spend the money.”
Smith said the body-worn cameras don’t actually deal with underlying issues, such as systemic racism, but can bring about “transparency.”
“It’s a bit of a contentious issue.”
He said his role as chair would be to address issues and conversations around defunding the police and street checks and to be accountable to residents.
“I feel as chair, that’s my role — to make sure that all those pieces fit together — and we’re doing the best we can to address those issues,” Smith said.