Board of Police Commissioners, Jan. 28, 2021
Meeting recap (the important stuff):
The Board of Police Commissioners sent the Halifax Regional Police budget of $88,905,100 to Regional Council for approval.
The budget includes an increase of $2.63 million for “service enhancements” which are new jobs or programs within the HRP. Councillor Blackburn said her support for increasing the police budget was contingent on the HRP making progress on the Wortley Report.
Kinsella said that three of the four new things they want funding for were directly related to implementing the Wortley Report. He said some of the recommendations in the Wortley Report, like the Journey to Change training, were paid for this year by an unspent training budget, but wouldn’t be normally included. It’s unclear what would happen to this training should council not approve the budget increase. An HRP spokesperson said in an email “the process is still ongoing and it won’t be appropriate for us to speculate on the outcomes at this point.” Fair enough.
The ‘police tank’ fiasco from a couple of years back happened because the HRP’s operating budget (things required day to day, like salaries) is separate from their capital budget (big special purchases). The vehicle was a capital purchase, but the Board of Police Commissioners was only shown the operational budget. So to prevent this from happening again, they passed a motion to be made aware of any capital purchases when the operating budget is presented. Which didn’t happen today. CAO Jaques Dubé took the blame for that oversight and the committee will meet again early next month (probably next week) to get a detailed presentation on the RCMP’s budget as well as get information on HRP’s planned capital budget requests.
Who said what (paraphrased):
Smith: First off, RCMP’s financial report.
Janis Gray, Chief Superintendent, RCMP: The RCMP budget is complex. On Feb. 16, we have a planned presentation for councillors and commissioners about our role in HRM and the province. We’re here because of the PPSA (Provincial Police Services Agreement). We cost $27.8 million out of the budget. 184 positions, civilians and uniformed. I have $3.6 million for discretionary funding, overtime, clothing repair, rentals, etc. We had a leave restriction due to COVID so we didn’t spend as much on overtime costs. We won’t get our budget letter from the province until April, but I don’t foresee a large change. We’re down on overtime spending, but we’ve spent our discretionary budget. Questions?
McDougall: I’m looking forward to Feb. 16.
Kent: Ditto Feb. 16!
Smith: The first overtime year to date is 200 and some over the budgeted number, what happened for you to get that?
Gray: That is our budget, not spent. We haven’t spent that much.
Smith: Proposed HRP Budget!
Kinsella: We’re following up from our presentation on Dec. 14. Here’s Craig Horton.
Craig Horton, Financial Coordinator for HRP: Proposed budget will increase by $2.30 million, but that doesn’t include increased Service Enhancements. To up our services, it’d cost $2.63 million. The proposed budget is in line with what was asked. We’re still dealing with COVID, so we don’t expect to spend a lot on things like overtime, travel, training, court time, etc. Current budget is $86,275,100. Overtime and Court Time will be going down next year (I still don’t fully understand why fundamental parts of police work, like going to court, are not included as part of their base salary and instead treated as a special duty). We’re not going to fully go back to our pre-COVID budget for at least three years. Kinsella’s going to jump in to explain the Service Enhancements.
Dan Kinsella, HRP Chief: We’ve tried to maintain our expenses and be fiscally responsible. But we’re requesting some service enhancements. Since the board is asking for policies for body cams, that’ll cost money. We’ll need to hire a person to do the work to develop policy and do community engagement. It’d be a temporary contract.
Smith: Procedure question, we can request not to be part of the proposed budget, do we need a motion to send this to council, or do we just need a motion if we want to remove items?
Solicitor: What happens if you don’t put forward a motion?
Smith: If we don’t put a motion forward it goes as presented? If we don’t agree with some service enhancements do we need a motion for that?
Solicitor: You need to do a motion and approve a budget to send it to council.
Smith: So if we want to make changes we send the chief away and then he has to come back and we send that budget to council?
Solicitor: Yes, more or less.
Clerk: CFO and CAO are also here to answer questions. If the changes are significant, then they should leave and come back to the board with the new budget. We do have some time with the HRP, I believe.
Fraser: HRP is scheduled to present on Feb. 17, so clerks need it by Feb. 4. Any amendments to the budget here, there could be discussion and debate here, or send it back to the HRP.
Smith: So we need to put a motion forward, if we want to remove one or all of the service enhancements, they wouldn’t be part of the standard budget. If we want to remove something, we just take it out of the budget and send that budget to council? Or do would we need to send it back to the HRP.
CFO: It really depends on what it is.
Smith: I just wanted to make sure everyone knows the process. Do we have a motion? Or should we have a discussion? If you agree or disagree with the service enhancements, then we have to make an amendment to remove them.
Blackburn: In this budget, you’re requesting $2.63 million more than the COVID budget. This time a year ago I said my support for increasing the police budget will be directly tied to how the Wortley Report was being implemented. So how are you doing on that?
Kinsella: I don’t have the exact number of what we’ve completed. How the budget relates to the Wortley Report, the money we’re asking for is to implement parts of section four of the Wortley Report. Three out of the four requests related directly to implementing Wortley.
Borden: On slide four there’s a decrease in training costs, is that the training is delivered? Or are you not doing it?
Kinsella: It’s still going on, we have adequacy training that’s ongoing. We sometimes go to the USA for training, for example, which obviously isn’t happening. There is a backlog of training though, for people waiting for courses.
Borden: The Journey to Change funding, is that part of the training budget, or is this extra money?
Kinsella: Journey to Change is extra money. It’s not included in the budget. We paid for the Journey to Change this fall out of the training money we didn’t spend due to COVID.
Borden: The changes due to COVID, have they identified any areas where there can continue to be a cost reduction moving forward?
Kinsella: We’re saving some money on training that we can move forward, but not with the Journey to Change, we want to hire an IT person to do that. The callback option, where officers follow up with phone calls is also saving money and will help with that.
Borden: The body-worn camera position is through HRP budget, not capital?
Borden: Last year we had a number of budget items that were tied to Wortley recommendations and were then denied by council. But it may be unfair for us to hold the HRP to that standard, without the support of council.
Kent: Streets aren’t safe, things like speeding are the main concerns. Is there somewhere in the budget where we can see the emphasis on street safety?
Kinsella: It’s a concern for us too. There’s education, engineering and enforcement. We have a full functioning traffic unit (it’s 10 officers out of 500+). We’re regularly finding people committing those offences. We’re making sure traffic officers are out, and making sure our patrol officers are doing traffic when they’re not doing other calls. Extra bodies is not always the answer, but we’re doing what we can.
Kent: Around communications and education. The people in our community are the ones driving the cars, and I think they may need reminders that they’re part of the solution. And I think we need to be creative with how we give this information, to capture an audience who’s getting most of their information on digital platforms. Maybe a presentation in the future to the board about how this education is being done?
Kinsella: It’s always worth a review if that’s a request.
Borden: Anything that we do should include HRP and RCMP.
McDougall: Vacant positions aren’t being filled, how many?
Kinsella: We are trying to fill the vacant positions, and have filled some.
Horton: When the COVID budget was approved we identified some vacant positions that didn’t need to be filled immediately. Roughly 18. We’re now working to fill them.
McDougall: Proposed 2020/2021 budget, is that a typo?
Horton: Yes. I’ll fix that.
McDougall: Service Enhancement, a budget will go to council, and service enhancements are still voted on separately? Is that correct?
Dubé: The board has to present the budget to council, they can only say yes or no.
McDougall: Can you explain the Workers Compensation thing? It wasn’t included last year, but is included this year?
Horton: In fall 2019, we wanted to move HRP from self-insured to workers compensation. We increased the premiums for workers comp. Normally when someone gets injured, the WCB would pay the people directly, but we’re going to keep paying them, and WCB will just send the money to us to repay us. So this is the first year we’re getting that money from WCB.
Smith: COVID impact, are we back to pre-COVID service levels?
Kinsella: No. The pandemic’s still ongoing, even if it’s better here. Some staffing is up to pre-COVID levels.
Smith: Are all of our CROs (Community Relations Officer) and school officers back on the job?
Kinsella: We have one school officer per division, and some CROs are back.
Smith: Are there any capital items that will be presented to council that you haven’t presented today?
Kinsella: This is the operating budget, not the capital one.
Fraser: The capital budget is going to be presented on Feb. 24.
Smith: Will we have another meeting to talk about the capital items after that presentation? Since we changed the procedure (after the HRP snuck the ‘tank’ into the capital budget)?
Dubé: This the HRP budget, but there’s also the RCMP budget. I think it would be good for the board to see that presentation before it goes to the council. So we’d need another special meeting of the board.
Smith: I’ll blame you then! One of the motions we did here was to say the operational budget also had to include the capital budget because they snuck a tank into the budget and we didn’t get an opportunity to provide feedback on that. So we asked for the capital budget to be presented alongside the operational budget. So my assumption was we’d have a meeting to talk about the capital budget since we made a motion about it.
Dubé: The capital budget is basically finalized. The capital budget is approved by council as recommended by me, so I think it’s important to do this. In terms of transparency, I think it’ll be helpful.
Smith: Can we get that presentation on the 8th? Or a special meeting?
Borden: I think the motion is the chief has to tell us about the stuff they asked for in the capital budget.
Dubé: I think we need to do this quicker than the 8th, prior to the end of next week?
Smith: The capital items would be information items?
Dubé: Depends on what you do today, if you recommend approving the budget today, then yes.
Smith: No matter what we need another meeting to approve the RCMP budget?
Dubé: I think so.
Smith: I suggest we get everything outside of this budget presented at the RCMP budget meeting.
Clerk: We’ll schedule it ASAP.
Smith: Court disposition clerk, what does that position do?
Kinsella: It would help address the backlog of sentencing dispositions. Normally it’s a secondary duty, but because it’s secondary there’s been a building backlog, and it’s never had a permanent position. It needs a full-time position.
Gray: Quick question, this presentation is something the RCMP hasn’t done before, can we get guidance on what you’re expecting?
Dubé: There’s a template we use, we gave it to you yesterday, just fill in what you can.
Smith: Motion to be brought forward, or not. What do you want to do?
Borden: I’ll put forward a motion saying we approve the budget as presented today to council for approval.
M/S/C – Vote – Unanimous – Aye
Smith: If this budget goes to council and they ask to reduce it in any way, what happens then?
Dubé: If they say no, it comes back to this board, probably with guidance, probably in the form of a dollar figure. Kinsella would then rework the numbers and bring it back.
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:
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