Halifax community members gathered in Dartmouth, N.S., Monday night to voice their opinions on the proposed police budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
The special meeting of the Board of Police Commissioners provided an opportunity for public consultation, which resulted in a packed room with standing room only.
Halifax Regional Police (HRP) is asking for a 6.8 per cent budget increase that would raise funding by $6 million — totaling more than $95.2 million.
“The nature of crime is changing,” said HRP Chief Dan Kinsella. “As a police service of our size and stature in this region, we must continually be able to respond, both proactively and reactively, to address, prevent and suppress crime using the best and most current tools available.”
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Many people had strong opinions in response to the proposed increase in funding.
“People asking for more money need to be proving what they’re going to do with it and proving what they’ve done with past funds,” said HRM resident Hannah Wood. “To show that that money will actually go where community members want it to go.”
HRM resident Lou Campbell spoke on their first-hand experience with police violence.
“I am literally afraid to call the police, and I avoid doing so at all costs,” said Campbell. “I don’t want my tax money being used to fund violence and negligence. And to be frank, absolute incompetence with situations with any kind of care or nuance.”
Victoria Levack was also opposed to the budget increase and was one of many who cited a ‘Defunding the Police’ report that is the work of a subcommittee to define defunding the police.
“The police are not here to protect, they’re here to enforce the will of the elite,” Levack said.
Joanne Hussey and Keesha Ryan from Dalhousie Legal Aid were also in attendance, expressing support for recommendations in the defunding report and speaking against the budget increase.
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“Funds should be re-invested in civilian-only mental health crisis intervention teams aligned with best practice,” said Ryan. “And used to increase per-capita spending on housing.”
The concerns presented in the special meeting are something that board chair Becky Kent says will be taken into consideration — as there’s still a lot to discuss before the budget is voted on.
“There’s a great pressure for change, and our commission is in great support of change,” said Kent. “We have to do it in a timeline that is adaptable and we can still have policing services and bring the players to the partnerships that need, and that does take time.”
The meeting ran longer than originally planned to ensure that all scheduled speakers had a chance to voice their concerns.
The motion to debate and decide on the budget was deferred to allow for more public consultation, available virtually, in the coming weeks.