‘Huge appetite’ for exploring defunding and detasking Halifax police: councillor

Click to play video: 'Councillor Lindell Smith weighs in on recent report on defunding Halifax police, police budget'
Councillor Lindell Smith weighs in on recent report on defunding Halifax police, police budget
We talk with Halifax councillor and Halifax police board chair Lindell Smith to get reaction to this week’s detailed report on defunding the police and upcoming public consultation on the Halifax Regional Police budget for next year – Jan 20, 2022

A Halifax councillor says there is desire on all sides to collaborate on exploring ideas of defunding police.

Earlier this week, a committee tasked with defining how to defund Halifax Regional Police produced an extensive report with recommendations on police practices, oversight and accountability. The subcommittee that wrote the report didn’t include any specific budget cuts, citing insufficient data.

The report recommended a “wholesale shift away from a reactive, enforcement-based model” of policing. Some of these recommendations include detasking, meaning a shift of responsibilities from police to other organizations.

In the Monday police board meeting, committee chair El Jones said some people who said they aren’t in support of defunding did support, for example, removing mental health response from police.

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“In order to shift away from policing, we also need to shift the way we resource other organizations,” Jones told the board.

“When we look at cities of a comparable size, we are, in fact, overfunding the police,” Jones said, referencing that the current HRP budget is higher than the national average, as stated in the report.

The Halifax Board of Police Commissioners chair and councillor Lindell Smith said in an interview on Thursday the report was well-written and he appreciates the work that went into it.

“When you read this report, it’s not radical at all … it’s very well-thought-out,” said Smith.

“There may be things that people think are radical, but we’re talking about not just detasking police, but also what that means around housing, what it means around support for mental health crises.”

The committee’s report stated that an online survey found 56.8 per cent of participants support the idea of defunding the police.

In December 2021, the HRP requested a $2-million budget increase for new hires. And, according to Wednesday’s report by the Halifax Examiner, officers have been awarded a 10 per cent pay bump over the next four years.

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Smith says while police don’t support defunding, there are some aspects of the report the agency is interested in. He says he doesn’t know yet what recommendations will be implemented.

“We’re trying to balance what community wants to not see with what our police are saying they need in order to serve the municipality.”

He says he believes there’s a “huge appetite” to explore concepts of detasking and defunding.

“The feeling is that a collaborative approach is needed,” said Smith.

— With files from The Canadian Press and the Global News Morning Show Halifax. 

Click to play video: 'Report on defunding Halifax police calls for reform'
Report on defunding Halifax police calls for reform

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