Some residents of Halifax are continuing their calls for the roughly $2-million proposed increase to the Halifax Regional Police budget to be rejected.
“I think appropriate next steps, and to do right by the citizens of Halifax would be to decline that request. And, if there’s an opportunity for $2 million to be applied to something, rethink that with the community,” said DeRico Symonds, one of the co-founders of GameChangers902.
The first step in the budget approval process was narrowly passed by the Halifax Board of Police Commissioners on Jan. 31. The decision came after the board heard from 27 members of the public, widely calling for the proposed funds to be reinvested in community and social supports.
Chief Dan Kinsella has repeatedly stated that the money would be used in the 2022-2023 budget to fund much-needed service enhancements, which would include hiring 26 new officers. Those officers would include two sexual assault constables and two hate crimes detectives.
“These asks have come at a time when we are faced with many challenges,” he said during the public hearing last month.
Kinsella says the bulk of those challenges include resources needed to address member illnesses, occupational stress injuries, and the increasing complexity of policing calls.
“We want to be able to continually improve the effectiveness of administrative and support services. And, build the required capacity as a service provider,” Kinsella stated during the public hearing.
He stated that there were some aspects of the proposal that couldn’t be discussed publicly due to matters of security personnel and deployment.
Tari Ajadi, a PhD political science candidate and co-author of the Defunding the Police report, said he was dismayed that the Board of Police Commissioners approved the first step of the budget increase on the heels of the defunding report.
“It’s disingenuous for commissioners to claim that they’re somehow going to fulfill the recommendations of the report while still looking for a $2 million increase to police budgets,” he said.
Many of the commissioners stated that the 36 recommendations from the report will require a lengthy time to review and implement, which is why they felt it was necessary to approve the proposed HRP operating budget in the interim.
Ajadi says that logic stands in stark contrast to the recommendations presented in the report.
“If the complexity keeps spiraling and we just keep funneling resources in and they say, ‘We’re overwhelmed.’ Where’s the stopping point here? It’s time to take a bit of a different approach,” he said.
Some of the recommendations include transferring some police responsibilities, like mental health crisis calls, to civilian-run organizations with the ultimate goal of “reducing the negative consequences of police engagement in unsuitable activities and reducing the police budget.”
Symonds echoes those sentiments and says the approval of the proposed increase would work against rebuilding trust in the community. Particularly, among Black Nova Scotians who were disproportionately impacted by police checks before they were banned following an in-depth review of the practice.
“Years of community begging, pleading and providing great research, and anecdotes on better use of money. And, so to then propose a $2 million budget increase — it’s really perplexing to me. And, it reads to me that, we don’t care about the community interests. That’s what I hear,” Symonds said.
The Budget Committee began its review of the proposal on Wednesday morning.
A decision was not reached and debate will continue on Friday.
— with a file from Rebecca Lau