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Council votes for independent report on whether Halifax has the right policing model

At approximately 7:00 p.m., Halifax Regional Police responded to a report of possible gun shots in the area of Lahey Road and Clarence Street in Dartmouth. Alexa MacLean/Global News

Halifax regional council voted unanimously for the city manager to prepare an independent report to review the current policing model.

Tony Mancini, representing Harbourview-Burnside-Dartmouth East, told council on Tuesday he wants to have a discussion on how effective the current policing system in the Halifax Regional Municipality is based on evidence, not emotion.

Mancini said that when the amalgamation of the municipality occurred 25 years ago, the mindset was to leave RCMP alone. He said a lot has changed since then.

“This is not the same municipality. We have more growth … more population, more diversity,” said Mancini, adding that the HRM continues booming.

His motion called for the city manager to prepare a report “based on a review of the current model of delivering policing services in Halifax Regional Municipality, to provide an evaluation of and make recommendations with respect to the effectiveness along with community safety standards of the current division of policing responsibilities in HRM between the Halifax Regional Police and the RCMP in their capacity as Nova Scotia Provincial Police.”

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“I want to be clear my motion is not an anti-RCMP motion,” Mancini said.

“My motion is a simple question: Is this the right policing model for the municipality we have today… and for the future?”

As mentioned in the meeting, Halifax is the only municipality in the country that uses both RCMP and a municipal police force. HRP covers the urban core areas, as well as Sambro Loop and Purcells Cove-Herring Cove Loop.

Mancini argued that a review of the effectiveness of this model would allow councillors to better understand areas of possible improvement in policing services.

Several councillors questioned the timing of Mancini’s motion. Coun. Becky Kent said the HRM should celebrate that it is the only municipality with this system, adding the HRM should provide RCMP and HRP with “all the tools they need to really make this work.”

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Chief administrative officer Jacques Dubé told council that the timing actually makes sense as it compliments several other reports and reviews that are ongoing.

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Last month, the Board of Police Commissioners set the terms of reference for a committee to define terminology of defunding police. The commissioners expect a report in the next few months.

In the summer of 2020, Coun. Waye Mason proposed a motion to explore alternatives to policing, in response to racialized communities calling for reallocated funding and delivery of service. That review will begin after the committee to define defunding has completed its report.

“It all does work together and this probably a good time,” Dubé said, “given the fact that it’s been 25 years… might as well be asking all the questions and be done with it.”

Dubé also noted that Nova Scotia is currently reviewing the role RCMP plays as a provincial police force, but that is separate from what an independent review would be.

The city manager said there are also not many companies within Canada that would be able to handle a report of this scope and he may look for independent reviewers internationally.

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

Having heard concerns from other councillors about his motion, Mancini said in closing that he is looking for evidence on whether the municipality is providing the right policing model.

Mancini also added that if the city has to spend one or two hundred thousand dollars, that is a good investment considering it spends $130 million on policing.

“I think we owe the citizens of the HRM to have this conversation, and to question this policing is the right model and how do we improve upon policing.”

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