Board of Police Commissioners, Jan. 18, 2021
Meeting recap (the important stuff):
After hearing a supplementary report, council has decided body-worn cameras must have policy in place before the city buys them. Newly elected as chair of the Board of Police Commissioners, Lindell Smith’s motion to defer the purchase of body cams until the city can draft policy for their use passed unanimously at today’s meeting.
Commissioner Carlos Beals was ready to make the decision to support purchasing body cams today, saying that people he’s spoken with and in his experience, police tend to react confrontationally to Black people but with compassion and sympathy to white people. He said that with police actions being recorded by body cameras he hopes police will initially react to everyone with compassion and sympathy.
But other commissioners expressed concerns about budgetary constraints. Because COVID has put pressure on budgets, as well as the fact that body cameras are an additional police expenditure and they have a committee studying defunding the police, there was hesitation to commit to any purchase right now.
Smith’s main concern was that policy would be developed in conjunction with the purchase of body cams and even if the policy that was developed was bad, the police would already have and use the cameras. His motion to develop policy first and delay the purchase of body cams by a year passed unanimously.
The commission also dealt with a backlog of agenda items that have been kicked down the road so long they predate our publication. In July of last year Smith asked for a report about the Board of Police Commissioners needing their own lawyers. In his motion from July 20, 2020, he wrote, “If HRP and HRM are providing the legal opinion for the board, this could be perceived as a conflict when seeking legal advice.” That report should come to them at their next meeting.
There is also a community survey about satisfaction with policing that will be conducted by MQO Research, but this process has been ongoing for several years. At this point the HRP and RCMP would like feedback from the board about what they want asked in the survey. It was deferred again to next meeting.
The board also got information on the breakdown of where money goes when people pay a ticket. For example, if a ticket is $237.50; $100 goes to the jurisdiction, $122.50 goes to the court to cover the costs and $15 goes to victim services. And they’ve requested information at their March meeting about how much money the police seize, and where it goes. This information isn’t usually made public and it may not be possible to provide for the board as such. They’ll also be getting a report on how much training HRP and RCMP officers get once they’re members of their respective forces.
Read more about what was said at the meeting below.
Who said what (paraphrased):
McDougall: We need to elect a new chair, so let’s start with that.
Blackburn: I nominate Lindell Smith.
Staff: Smith do you accept?
Staff: No need for an election since we only have one nominee, elect a vice-chair, please.
Smith: Thank you Commissioner Borden for your work on this board.
*Someone nominated McDougall, missed who, no one else nominated, so Commissioner McDougall is the vice-chair*
Smith: Anyone want to make changes to the meeting?
McDougall: Can we defer item 7.8, update on potential legislation for police articles, because Borden had a lot of conversations with the Department of Justice and I’m not sure we can talk about it without her here.
Smith: 7.4, update on our work plan, I know Borden was working on that too, should we wait for her on that too?
McDougall: I think it’s just added as a standing item so we can keep track of what’s being done.
Smith: Why don’t we defer this and have a discussion offline so we’re prepared for the conversation about what we want to do? Motion to defer 7.4 and 7.8.
M/S/C – Vote – Unanimous – Aye
Smith: On to 7.1, proceeds of crime.
Chief Gray: Commissioners wanted to know what happened with seized assets, and how they’re distributed after arrest. Within 90 days the assets are split between the jurisdictions. The request for the money is submitted by the police who took part in the operation. They can only spend the money on victim services or crime prevention. Money comes in with civil forfeitures or criminal inventions, like the cash that drug dealers have on hand at the time of arrest.
Kent: Are there examples of how this money has been spent?
Gray: Victims services programs and hiring term employees are two examples that I know of, but I can get more information.
Kent: Crime prevention is very broad, having community-related crime prevention would be a good use of money. So I’m trying to find out if something like this has been done before, I’d like those examples. Depending on when and what we get back I’d be interested in spearheading the drive to get some of that money.
Beals: The people who are deciding how to spend the money from proceeds of crime, who are they? Civilians? Police?
Gray: They’re government officials.
Beals: How much money is it?
Gray: We don’t know, I don’t think it’s made available, but I can get back to you on this.
Beals: When crime occurs in a community we need to make sure we’re improving that community. It’s important that community groups are allowed to apply for these resources, I think these resources should go right back into those communities.
Gray: The money is from only certain kinds of investigations, high-level organized crime investigations for example. Most of our criminal investigations don’t have seized assets.
Beals: Is it the same process for the HRP?
Smith: How are seized assets tracked? From seizure to distribution. How do you get it? Well, I guess we know that, but how does it get from point A to point B? If we want community groups or non-profits to get this money, how do we do that? XPMD, what’s that?
Gray: XPMD is ‘Seized Property Management Division’. The Director of Public Safety and Security is the person with the answer to your questions, and I’ll follow up for you there.
Smith: What’s the process from seizure to giving out the money on your end?
Gray: It’s XPMD that does it, we have to apply for it.
Smith: An investigation happens, and seizes $10,000, it gets added to the year end pile, and then you can apply for a part of the pile of that money at the end of the year?
Smith: Can you just confirm what you’re asking for, for us?
Gray: What has the money been used for, how much money is there right now? And the process from seizure to distribution.
Staff: You should have a motion for this.
Kent: *Makes a motion for this*
Gray: I don’t think you’ll get information about how much money there is.
Gray: It’s not normally public information, I’ll ask though.
Smith: We’ll put it in there as an ask, and we can put it in camera if they’re worried about it becoming public information.
M/S/C – vote – Unanimous – Aye
Smith: Summary offence ticket revenue.
Kinsella: It’s from the Dept. of Finance, for more information it may have to come from the province. Ticket fines are paid through the provincial court and it goes to three things: The fine, court fees and victim services. I don’t have percentages, but I have an example. A fine of $237.50; $100 goes to the jurisdiction, $122.50 goes to the court to cover the costs and $15 goes to victim services. Questions?
McDougall: What is a summary offence ticket?
Kinsella: It’s basically any ticket for people breaking the rules. Like traffic tickets or breaking COVID rules.
Staff: Basically any minor thing can get a ticket.
Kent: Are all tickets summary offence tickets? Or just the police tickets?
Kinsella: Bylaw enforcement has authority under specific acts (like parking tickets).
Kent: Would a bylaw ticket’s money be distributed differently?
Kinsella: I didn’t ask, specifically, but my understanding is no. A ticket is a ticket is a ticket. And for the record, we don’t have any input in the money we get from the tickets.
Kent: Where does the $100 for the municipality go? Is it earmarked specifically for something? Or is it just general revenue? Can we prevent it from going to the general pot if we want to spend it on something specific?
Dubé: I don’t know.
Jane Fraser (CFO): It’s a general account or goes to a business unit.
Kent: So if HRP issues it, it goes to HRP, if bylaw issues it, it goes to bylaw?
Kent: Okay perfect.
Blackburn: Can special constables write summary tickets?
Kinsella: Depends on what their authority is, some can.
Blackburn: If RCMP writes it, it goes to the RCMP?
Smith: Are the bridge commissioners special constables?
Kinsella: Yes, they have jurisdiction on the bridges. They do a lot of MVA tickets.
Smith: So do those ticket monies go to the bridge commission?
Kinsella: You’d have to ask the province.
Smith: On to 7.3, community survey.
Kinsella: MQO Research has been selected to complete the survey. The next step is to design the survey. We need direction from the board on timeline.
Kent: I’m new to the board, so I’d like some background about why the board asked for this and what originated it? What the goals were? What are the dates? Surveys are often impacted by life, like a mass shooting in Nova Scotia and COVID, so I’d like to know what the goals were when this process was started.
Smith: We never got to it, and we should have shared a report with you. It’s been a while since we’ve had these discussions.
Kinsella: It’s been ongoing since I’ve been here (Kinsella took over as chief on July 1st, 2019), but we can put together a backgrounder.
McDougall: A number of discussions have taken place, and we need to bring people up to date so we’re all working from the same information. A previous organization was going to do the survey and it all came to a halt last February (2020), and a lot has changed since then, so the initial background and intention would be good.
Smith: If we decide to defer this to the next meeting, how does that affect your timeline? What feedback do you need from us?
Kinsella: We can have the backgrounder ready for the March meeting and make a plan from there. We’ll need to figure out what community consultation looks like with COVID.
Smith: We can defer that, then.
Kent: We ended 7.1 with a motion, 7.2 ended with next steps, is this (community survey) a standing item that’ll keep coming back or is it done now?
McDougall: The reason it continues to be on the agenda is because we haven’t done the survey, it’s not a standing item.
Kent: I think I may just wait until the next meeting to see if it stays on the agenda or disappears, but really, I’m just looking for clarity when I’m reading the agenda, but I think it’s just being new. So I’ll make a motion to defer this and get the report at our March meeting.
McDougall: Just to clarify, I wasn’t saying that community survey isn’t important. We were looking at items that were ongoing and pressing in the spring and then other priorities came up, and now we’re playing catch-up. So there are things that may seem like standing items but are really just things that we’ve kept deferring.
Staff: We can create a report that details the dates of agenda items and outline how we got here.
McDougall: Can you send it to everyone?
M/S/C – Vote – Unanimous – Deferred until March meeting
Smith: On to 7.5, status update on independent opinion on legal council.
Marty Ward, municipal lawyer: Kathryn Saulsman is preparing the report, but I’m not sure if there was a date set?
Smith: I don’t think there’s a timeline other than ASAP.
Ward: I’ll follow up and aim for March, we don’t need a motion.
Smith: Can you give a background, the Coles Notes version (the TL;DR for you youngin’s), on this for the new folks and others in the public who might be watching?
Ward: The board is independent of council but does council’s bidding, so this report is looking at if that means issues of conflict of interest and what the options are if there is an issue with conflict of interest. From time to time the commission may want an independent opinion and in those cases, what should the board do? What advantages or disadvantages are there to having a lawyer specifically for the board that’s independent and when should that lawyer be utilized?
Smith: I asked because I wanted to know if there was a conflict of interest if HRM’s lawyers give advice to the Board of Police Commissioners. On to 7.6!
Gray: I thought this was going to be deferred?
Smith: Until when?
Gray: It’s a substantial presentation, and it’s massive, so we’d like some clarification because we could talk for days about officer training.
Kinsella: We’d like some direction, we can give you an hour or 40 hours, so what you’re looking for would be very helpful.
Smith: It’d been deferred for a while, I think we were going for an overview initially, but I think before we decide when to defer we need to look at other things that we’ve decided to defer already.
McDougall: After getting a presentation about training and recruitment of new members, we had questions about ongoing training for serving officers, updating training, is it annual? Bi-annual? I think an agenda-setting meeting to determine what exactly we’re asking for and when.
Kent: I’d like the ongoing training opportunities about the beats (patrols), trauma-informed policing, etc. I don’t care so much how it’s rolled out, but what is being offered and who’s getting the training. I don’t mind taking time to get this right.
Blackburn: I was looking for equity and diversity training.
Beals: Our citizens are seeing a pattern of the militarization of police, so I’d like to see the training opportunities for use of force training versus conflict and de-escalation training. A breakdown of non-violent crisis intervention vs use of force and what’s considered best practices.
Smith: For me, it’s training in physical interactions of police. RCMP brought a list of training modules to the commission, and we wanted a breakdown like that of HRP’s training. Do you need more?
Kinsella: That’s good, and we’ll present topics at agenda-setting and then bring the appropriate presentations to the meetings.
Staff: The Dec. 14 meeting said defer to today, and now it’s today, which is why it’s on the agenda. You can defer today with or without a specific future date.
Smith: Because of the budget, I’d say no date, so it can just come back when it’s ready. And if we keep deferring to next meeting then the next meeting is just a bunch of deferred items.
Clerk: Even with no date, you still have to do it within six months.
McDougall: I don’t think this is truly urgent for February or March, but it is good information for us.
Kent: It’s important for us to understand it, so if it’s an information report, then we can put it back on the agenda when it’s done. So I’ll move to defer and get it back as an information item.
Smith: Do we need an action item in the deferral since it’s a report and presentation?
M/S/C – Vote – Unanimous – Aye
Smith: On to the RCMP Equity and Diversity Initiative update.
Gray: It’s just an update from my September presentation. We’re working on a more robust equity and diversity strategy including mandatory education and training. We’re accelerating the training on unconscious bias, and we’re working on diversifying our advisory committees and board. We have a series of online courses to train our officers. There’s a lot of initiatives and strategies now on the Vision 150 tracker, it’s transparent and holds us accountable.
Smith: You gave us an update about the training that was done about ‘the African Nova Scotian Experience,’ and I’m wondering what the trickle-down effect of training like that is for HRP?
Gray: It’s called the ACE course, African Canadian Experience, it was developed here by our members. But, when it comes to our initiatives that are initiated by nationals, we’re accountable, and I have to report on them monthly.
Smith: Anyone from HRP taking the course this time around?
Gray: I think they developed their own awareness course.
Kinsella: We have people taking the ACE course this week. Our course is called the Journey to Change course.
Smith: How long is the course?
Gray: Five days.
Smith: We’re getting closer to the actual agenda! 10.1.1, HRM Wortley Report recommendations.
Kinsella: We did excellent virtual outreach during our recruitment campaign, and had an increase in diverse applicants. We also ran the Journey to Change course; which includes topics like anti-Black racism, and intergenerational trauma. The DoJ (Department of Justice) has created a committee to collect data, which has so far met twice. Street checks are still banned. And about FOIPOPs, our street check data is being held indefinitely until further direction, but we’ve had 11 requests so far.
Gray: We haven’t had any ATIP requests.
McDougall: I’d like to shout out our former Chair, Natalie Borden, for making sure we keep track of the things recommended by the Wortley Report.
Kent: Did I get the report? I don’t think anyone sent it to me.
Smith: We may not have, we’ll make sure we send it to you. Is the Journey to Change, are you calling it training?
Smith: It’d be great if we could get a briefing about what the training actually is, we’ll put it in a future agenda.
Kinsella: It’s based on lived experience so having our trainers talk to you would be helpful.
Smith: When it comes to street stops in general, how are we presenting that information to the public in general, if there’s been an improvement?
Kinsella: The DoJ committee is exploring, potentially, race-based data as part of their work. So maybe there?
Gray: We’re relying on the DoJ committee to give us the framework to present the information.
Smith: I’d like to know what their initial plan is to present the information to the public when they have it. On to body cam, presentation?
Kinsella: This is a supplementary report.
Smith: Questions about it?
McDougall: I’m not sure body-worn cameras are a best practice yet. There’s not a lot of information about their effectiveness in policing in Canada. One of the big questions was that communities should be engaged in developing policy. When we’re doing the survey, could we include body-worn camera policy? How will the body-worn camera video fit into the paperwork aspect of the job? I like the annual report, or some consistent reporting to the police commissioners. Page 9 of your report says body-worn cameras don’t address the underlying issues of systemic racism, so I think we need to understand that point when coming up with policy.
Kinsella: The video does not replace reporting paperwork. They’re supplemental. There will be built in checks and balances, and oversight which we’d need to come up with when developing policy.
Robertson: In the reports they would have a ‘video available’ section, and then the videos would be tagged to be found. Once the policy is established there would be regular checks.
Blackburn: This straddles a fine line between privacy and a useful tool. I think we’ll need to manage expectations (a version of the CSI effect). Would the release of body-worn camera footage be under normal FOIPOP rules?
Robertson: Yes, and a lot of the vendors have the ability to redact, as we would for documents, and we’d probably, eventually, need more people in the FOIPOP department.
Kinsella: That’s a good point, that Councillor Blackburn made, we need to manage expectations.
Beals: What accountability is there if there should be video of an incident and for whatever reason there isn’t?
Kinsella: We’d ensure it through policy.
Beals: When it comes to improving outcomes for racialized communities, in my experience and opinion, Black people are often met with hostility and aggression and white folks are treated with sympathy and compassion. So hopefully recording police interactions means police start treating everyone with sympathy and compassion.
Kinsella: It should help with trust and transparency and it’ll also help training.
Smith: Confidential informants wouldn’t be documented by body-worn cams, so how would that information be captured, or not?
Robertson: We wouldn’t turn the camera on there, cultural sensitivity is another one, like entering religious institutions, schools or hospitals. But they’d write it down in their book and report it.
Kinsella: We do have confidental informant policies that would govern this.
Smith: Body cam video won’t be released to the media, but how do we balance that when it becomes a matter of public interest?
Kinsella: We’d do a privacy assessment.
Robertson: We’d have to have the consent of the people in the video.
Smith: If the media requests ‘all body-worn camera between X and Y date on Gottingen Street’?
Robertson: We’d have a ‘we have this many videos’ answer, but it would be a difficult request to grant because they’re normally only turned on for interactions.
Smith: So if they worded it correctly, the police would have to go through and get consent from each person to release it?
Robertson: Yes, and it’d depend on the vendor to what that looked like in particular.
Smith: So how should we proceed, or not, with body-worn cameras?
McDougall: I’m concerned about budget. I see the value of body-worn video, but budgets are tight because of COVID, and we’re talking about defunding the police. Would it make more sense to talk about this when we talk about the budget?
Blackburn: I’m in the same boat as McDougall, we haven’t seen a concrete price tag, and I’d like to see that. I know there’s a lot of vendors and possibilities, but I can’t say ‘alright let’s do this,’ today. I want to know the price tag for purchasing and maintenance as part of the context of the budget discussion.
Beals: Do we know how much this is going to cost?
Kinsella: We presented it in December, and we can present again with the budget.
Beals: What’s the number?
Robertson: Initial cost for 300 cameras would be $795,000, plus two people, $95,000. $890,000 total for year one. Year 2022-23, $693,000. $3.7 million over five years.
Beals: Is this all HRP costs, or HRM costs?
Robertson: Capital costs would be HRM.
Beals: Would this come out of HRP’s budget?
Jane Fraser: The camera purchase would be a HRM capital purchase. The funding would considered as part of the capital budget, and would be a budget pressure of the HRP.
Beals: If this was approved, when would body cams be on the streets?
Robertson: Pending approval, fall of next year, to the traffic members.
Fraser: HRP is presenting their capital budget on February 24.
Beals: I think this is important in enhancing public trust, and this doesn’t seem to be too expensive. I’d be ready to make a decision today.
Smith: Has the envelope changed about the HRP’s budget since our last discussion?
Fraser: It’s the same as it was last time in December.
Smith: My concerns are twofold, when it comes to budget, we’ve started a conversation about defunding, and we havn’t budgeted for it, so it’s an addition to budget. And the budget is in a tight space. — *Technical difficulties missed a couple sentences* — Almost everyone I spoke to wanted to make sure the policy was right, but right now that happens as we’re putting money toward the cameras. I’d rather develop the policy and work plan, and a privacy impact assessment, see what we need to develop that. And then once we have that, in the next budget, buy the cameras if the policy is right. And I have a motion to put forward, but don’t want to just impose this on the commission.
Kent: I’m still trying to better understand the implications of this. I think due diligence on our part is just as important as the work others need to do. In continuing down this road people need to know we’re trying to get complete information to make a better decision, we’re not committing.
Beals: Capital budget meeting is February, is that a one a year annual meeting?
Fraser: Yes, but it’s for this year and a three year outlook. It’s done on a regular basis.
Beals: If were to not make a decision today does that impact our ability to get this on the budget this year?
Fraser: I don’t think so.
McDougall: If this is a capital item, after year one, are the operating costs part of the capital budget or operating?
Fraser: Operating budget.
Smith: We do need to make some sort of decision today, no matter what the decision is. I have a motion to get policy first and then buy cameras, but it doesn’t capture everything that we’ve been saying. It says we’ll get the policy right first, and we’re supportive of body cameras, but get the policy right and then buy. I don’t think we should put money in the budget this year for cameras, but I’d like to give them resources to do this policy development work. I don’t think we can move forward with this until we have the policies in place. I don’t want people to have unrealistic expectations about what cameras can do to solve the problems we’re dealing with, like racism.
Kinsella: We are doing three things, 1) create policy, 2) conduct the privacy impact assesment through the privacy commission and 3) community consultation? For the next budget? Is that right?
Smith: Yes, but we could do community consultation on this as part of the rest of the community consultation we’re doing.
Kinsella: Okay, perfect thanks.
Smith: And also resources you need, if any, to do the first one.
Beals: 2023 for rollout on this new plan? I’m just trying to sort out timelines.
Kinsella: Pending approvals, yes.
Smith: Does my motion do what we want it to do based on this conversation?
Clerk: *Fixes stuff in their internal chat*
Fraser: And just be aware it’s pending budget approval, doesn’t need to be added to the motion, just be aware.
M/S/C – Vote – Unanimous – Aye
Clerk: Can we get a motion to extend the meeting?
M/S/C – Vote – Unanimous – Aye
Smith: On to 10.2.1, Commissioner McDougall.
McDougall: When I joined the board in 2017 there were no policies for us, and I developed with Councillor Mason some policies in 2018. And then in 2019, we wanted to add four more policies, which were added in 2020. As part of our work plan I was going to go through them and clean then them up with basic editing. They went to legal, and came back to us now for approval. I understand that people wouldn’t necessarily have read through this word for word, but I think having them all in one place is a good idea, and they can be amended. But we should put them in a place where they’re ours, approved and public, and this is the motion to do that. *Reads the motion for agenda item 10.2.1 as written*
Kent: I’m pleased to support this motion.
Smith: I reference these documents on my computer regularly, so I think making them public and approving them is essential.
M/S/C – Vote – Unanimous – Aye
Smith: Do you want to do the update on the defunding the police committee today?
McDougall: We do need a terms of reference for this committee, and we need a motion to do that, which we can do after Blackburn’s update. *Reads motion for agenda item 10.2.2 as written*
Blackburn: There’s a written update, El Jones intends to update us next meeting, they’re progressing and have letters drafted to reach out to community members and to people with specific lived experience. They expect the committee to meet late this month or early next month. They’re looking for honorariums for people who require it, not for people who are gainfully employed.
M/S/C – Vote – Unanimous – Aye
Commissioner Lindell Smith, Chair (Councillor, District 8)
Commissioner Carole McDougall, Vice-Chair
Commissioner Becky Kent (Councillor, District 3)
Commissioner Lisa Blackburn (Councillor, District 14)
N/A – COVID
Previous meeting minutes and current agenda:
A former Naval Officer turned journalist, Matt Stickland is committed to empowering his community to ensure that everyone has access to the information they need to make their city a better place.
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