Subcommittee on defunding the police gets final approval

Police want to jump vaccine queue

Board of Police Commissioners, March 8, 2021

Meeting recap (the important stuff):

The Board of Police Commissioners gave final approval to the Committee to Define Defunding the Police at today’s meeting. The process to form this subcommittee started in August of last year and is now finally coming to fruition. In a presentation to the board today, El Jones said there are a dozen committee members with a wide range of lived experience in interacting with police. 

There was some concern with the public engagement process, specifically the survey the subcommittee is planning to do. Councillor Kent asked whether the board would be able to approve the questions on the survey. Jones said the survey is open ended to make sure people who didn’t want to defund the police could have their voices heard and said she’d send the survey to board members prior to sending it out. There was also some confusion about the specific wording in the report to the board. Both of the concerns raised were from Kent who didn’t want to give the perception that the board had already decided to defund the police as a policy directive. This is included not to take a potshot at Councillor Kent, but to highlight if a veteran politician with Kent’s acumen can get confused by policy process, anyone can.

The subcommittee was struck by unanimous vote. 

Both police forces gave updates on their implementation of the Wortley report. The RCMP are making posters, and surveying their members about their implicit bias. They’ll also be hosting virtual coffee with a cop sessions where the police officer participating will be Black or Indigenous. The HRP did their Wortley recommended training course in February as part of African Heritage Month.

Kinsella also gave an update on the IT audit conducted by the auditor general, saying they’re implementing changes, but will have a more detailed update in April.

And finally, both police forces are advocating to change their place in the COVID vaccine queue from phase three to phase two, arguing that they are front line workers.

Who said what (paraphrased): 

Smith: Defunding the police committee terms of reference has been bumped up to the top. 

McDougall: Can we hear from El Jones first? We’ve voted to support the work she’s doing, the motion is just to accept the terms of references. 

Smith: Yes. 

Jones: The questions we have on our end are on logistics, we have the names for the committee, most of the people have lived experience in interacting with the police. We’re trying to find meeting dates we can all agree on. Scheduling is hard with COVID and childcare. Our main question is logistics around public hearings. It would be good to have some help setting up the public hearings. We have a survey we’d like to send out for public feedback. We have a committee and are in the process of meeting. Questions? 

Smith: You need support for public feedback and public information meetings?  

Jones: Yes, and getting out the survey. 

Smith: For terms of reference, are you happy with the terms of reference as presented today? 

Jones: Yes. 

McDougall: I don’t have any questions, I’m looking forward to this moving forward. 

Blackburn: Is it possible to work with corporate comms to get the survey out to the public? 

*Tech issues – my stream is frozen

CAO:  –and we can work together on this and go from there.

Borden: I’m excited to see progress being made on this.

Kent: Will we have a review opportunity of this survey so we know what the questions are? Sometimes there’s criticism of what the questions are. Will the commission have approval before this goes out? It’s reflective of us, so I hope we have some say before it goes out. It’s important work.  

Jones: I have no issue with that, they’re mostly open ended questions. Our main goal with the survey and feedback is that we know people disagree with defunding the police, so they also need a way to give their input. We’d like an email address or something like that so people can send in feedback. We want dissenting voices to also be heard. 

Marty Ward, legal: The commission could go with that understanding or add it to the motion? 

Kent: The survey review part? 

Ward: Yes. 

Kent: I’m okay with not putting it in the motion.

Jones: I’ll send it around to you before it goes out to the public. 

Beals: I just want to echo my appreciation for Jones’ work. How many members are on the subcommittee?

Jones: 10-12.

Beals: Is there Dartmouth representation? 

Jones: Yes, there’s quite a good distribution of backgrounds. 

Thomas: I just want to echo what everyone else has said. 

Smith: I’ll also echo the appreciation. Do we have to do an approval of membership of the subcommittee? Or is the terms of reference vote enough? 

Clerk: It’s approval of the subcommittee, it’s empowering that the work will be done through the terms of reference. 

Smith: So we vote today and the work just gets done?

Clerk: Yes. 

*Tech issues – my stream is frozen again*

Smith: Do you need anything else Jones?

Jones: No, but we’ll be updating you with timelines, but we don’t expect to be too far off. 

McDougall: *Reads the motion for agenda item 10.2.1 as written* I’d like to get a little bit of context for this. We chose to use the words ‘Committee to Define Defunding the Police’, on purpose, after a motion in July. We’ve done the work to find out what the subcommittee needs, and we voted to get Jones to do the work for us. This is the last, formal, step in giving Jones the authority she needs to do the work we’ve asked her to do. 

Blackburn: The terms of reference look solid to me.  

Borden: I think it’s good this work will be used by council as well. Just to remind folks, this committee is going to make a recommendation, and we’ll have a debate when they come back with that recommendation. 

Kent: I’m happy to support this, I trust in the work that’s been done so far by the commissioners who’ve been doing this work since last summer. I just want to make sure that we’re not getting ahead of ourselves with definitions. The process right now is to define terms, like defunding, before we can endorse it being used in policy decisions. But it was just one line, and I don’t want to get too hung up on it right now. 

Beals: Is there a rough estimate on what the subcommittee’s going to need in terms of a budget? 

CAO: I don’t think my office was involved in any financial decisions. I think there was some money from the BOPC budget. 

McDougall: We allocated up to $9,000 to cover costs of non-waged people who were participating who may need childcare or transportation to participate. If these meetings do become public, it may also include tea and coffee, but we’ve yet to come to a figure. 

Blackburn: That pretty much covers it, we figured it could all come out of the Board of Police Comissioners budget, since we didn’t use any of ours last year. 

Beals: We mentioned that it might be good to give committee members an honorarium, is that still true? 

McDougall: Jones said we should focus more on unwaged people who might need barriers removed rather than paying an honorarium. 

Kent: Just to go back to what I was talking about, on page 18 we see a report, it says we need to find a definition of defunding, which we tasked them to do. But there is a line saying “Addressing relevant Board/municipal policies or policy proposals that could facilitate defunding,” but it reads like it’s an endorsement that we already have a definition of defunding. I might be picking this too close, but we’ve not landed on a definition, but we’re using that terminology now. 

Smith: Are any of the aspects of what we’ve seen in the proposal out of the scope of what we’ve asked for? I think that’s what you’re pointing to. The report will include a definition of defunding, who else is doing it, and what it could look like in the HRM. 

Borden: What we’ve talked about from the beginning is that they’re all recommendations to come to the board. There might be a lack of clarity in the wording that could be easily fixed and incorporated into the motion. But the intent is definition -> opportunities -> policies, but they’re all recommendations, but we can clarify the wording. 

McDougall: If some of the recommendations that come to us are more of a council thing then council can address it. Some of this work can be used to address a motion from Mason last August, for example. The whole point of this committee is to come up with a definition for this board itself, but we are not council, we exist because of the Police Act. It’s important to remember we are two separate entities. 

Smith: I think the terms of reference are very clear. The biggest piece for me is the summary of what defunding the police could look like in the HRM because the initial motion didn’t include recommendations, but it did say we wanted to know how defunding would work, which these terms of reference do. So I don’t think it’s out of scope, I think they’re doing what we asked them to do. We can maybe add to the motion ‘recommendations.’ Lawyer’s got his hand up!

Ward: It’s implicit that these are recommendations only, but it might be helpful to change the word from would to could “what defunding could look like” because that puts it in the realm of possibility only. There’s some concern that the wording takes it further than just recommendations and this adds clarity. 

Smith: I’m confused, in the term of reference it says “could” already in the motion. 

Kent: Part of this report, to me, is stretching outside of the mandate of the initial request. This committee has no functional power to address, they only have power to articulate issues. Authority, I should say, not power. I’m not trying to limit the scope, but when we use language that indicates things are actionable, it could look bad. 

Smith: Just for clarity, this is in reference to attachment two, which was a presentation by Jones, before the terms of reference. It was a concern initially and has been addressed in the terms of reference. 

Ward: What Smith said. 

McDougall: The terms of reference were built around the original proposal, but any disagreement between the initial proposal and the terms of reference are changes because of the debate we’ve had since the initial proposal. Can I call for the question? 

Smith: Does anyone want to add anything to the main motion? 

Kent: I don’t think we need to, now that I understand the context.


Smith: Proceeds of crime, I think Chief Gray has information? 

Gray: The information from the Department of Justice got back to us. Here’s what’s up with proceeds of crime:

Image of slide from presentation. Slide title: "Proceeds of Crime."

Gray: Only police can access the money, not public bodies, like the Board of Police Commissioners. They’re working on something, though DoJ can come back and brief you if you want. 

McDougall: There’s about to be a process that allows public bodies to get this information and money, would a letter be helpful to accelerate and support this? 

Smith: If we were to write a letter, it would be to get them to share this information? Or speed up the process of figuring out the process? 

McDougall: Just generally to say we’re supportive and want more information. 

Smith: I can write a letter, if you want to make a motion, I don’t need a motion, but we can make it official. I can add this to my meeting agenda for my next meeting with the DoJ, but if you want something more official I can do that as well. I’ll add it to the agenda of the next meeting with the DoJ. Up next, community survey, anyone got anything? 

McDougall: We have a lot of policies and one of the policies says we need to make the RCMP and HRP conduct a community survey, so I’m delighted it’s part of this. 

Smith: I know we had a timeline for this, what is it? 

Kinsella: I don’t know we’ve established a timeline, but there’s a lot of work being done in reaching out to the communities. 

Smith: We have three similar processes, the defunding the police subcommittee, the resource allocation review from council, CAO you have a better definition of that motion?

CAO: It’s a review of police services in the context of ‘what can/should uniformed officers do?’ i.e. should cops always be the ones to respond to mental health calls? I’ve been directed by council to look at that and come back to council. I was going to wait for Jones to finish first so our work can be inspired by her work. The issue of defunding the police implies funding police differently and funding other things more in the interest of public safety. As soon as she’s done, we’re going to start. 

Smith: So those two, and this survey, should we be asking them to develop a draft survey, so they have something? Or are we going to have to do another RFP if we run out of time on this one? 

Kinsella: MQO is the vendor we have right now, there needs to be some dialogue with the board and our two forces and vendor about what the survey looks like. I don’t know what the timeline would look like. 

Smith: When does MQO’s contract expire? 

Kinsella: I don’t know for sure, I can get that for you, but we do have some time. 

Smith: Let’s get that information so we don’t run into the same issue. Let’s add to a future meeting about this survey.  

Kinsella: The MQO offer is valid until Sept. 2023.

Smith: Do we have to this in our next meeting? Or is this something we can do offline? What’s the best way forward? 

CAO: This was really about getting feedback from the community on the quality and impact of police services, the report I’ve been directed by council to do is not that. The former is more of a customer satisfaction survey. They’re kind of mutually exclusive. Jones will be engaging the public on something completely different, ‘what does defunding the police mean to you?’ The report I’ve been asked for is ‘what’s the best use of sworn officers?’ This survey is a customer satisfaction survey.  

Smith: I was more saying that some of our members might be gone by next meeting, so I was wondering if anyone who’s leaving the board would want to have input before they potentially leave the board. So… moving on. 

Clerk: There was a recommendation in the report, did you want to do anything with the recommendation? 

Blackburn: *Reads the motion for agenda item 7.2 as written

McDougall: We should include the RCMP.

Smith: We’ll amend it to include RCMP. Do we have to vote on the amendment? 

Clerk: Not if it’s friendly.


Smith: Wortley report recommendations update.

Kinsella: We just finished our second Journey to Change course as part of African Heritage month (It’s supposed to be regular training, not because of a special month). It will be given to all new hires. As far as data collection, a committee is meeting on a regular basis. They have met five times and continue to do their work. To date there have been 11 FOIPOPs for street check information. Questions? 

Gray: We have received no ATIP request for street check data, our comms people are doing our comms strategy, and we’ve made posters. We have a member on the data collection committee. Our ACE workshop was cancelled last week but will be rescheduled. Our diverse recruiting initiatives continue, we’ve had six applicants who identify as visible minorities. We have a coffee with a cop program, and the cops participating will be Black or Indigenous. We are also putting out a questionnaire to members to identify their biases. 

Blackburn: Did Kinsella say there were 11 requests for street check data? Are people starting to request their data? 

Kinsella: There haven’t been any requests in 2021, that’s our running total. 

Smith: We have put out messaging for folks to access that data, but should we push that information out again, about how to access that information? 

Kinsella: It was last done in January, but we can do it again. 

Borden: How many staff have done the Journey to Change? 

Kinsella: 46 to date (out of ~530 officers, two years after Wortley).

Smith: It’s been two years since Wortley, it might be time to do a public facing outside-of-the-commission meeting or report. Should we do a two year update? What would it look like? What should be included? 

Kent: I think a two year update is helpful if we can create something that we can put out to the public. I don’t think it’s unreasonable after two years to have an official article of information that can be referenced in the future, and an official two year review. 

Borden: The last update was at the end of September, so you may want to time your years with that. (There are three types of year in Halifax: calendar, fiscal and Wortley!)

McDougall: I think we need to do something, maybe a report from the chair to council? It would give the media a chance to talk to you about steps that have been taken and some things that are ongoing. I don’t know about the timing. 

Smith: When is our next annual report to council? 

McDougall: It’s usually in the summer. 

Clerk: It’s scheduled for June. 

Smith: We can make our report to council a report to the community at the same time. We’ll figure out the timing. Being shared with the public is the most important aspect. Do we want to add the tracking list or have something that’s more detailed?

Borden: The detailed tracker, the one from the website, it’d be easier to build off that than create a new one. 

Smith: The DoJ wants to know if there’s anything further we’d want them to support, anyone want anything from them? 

Borden: They haven’t yet provided the information for the tracker, so that. 

Blackburn: Agreed. 

Smith: They also have initiatives, so I’ll get more information on what they’re doing. We need a motion for that? No? Okay. On to, audit action plan

Kinsella: A memo was provided, it has the high level summary. We’re going to start reporting to the board quarterly. We’re working on it immediately and doing the highest priority stuff first. We’re going to implement everything within 18 months. We expect to have a number of them completed by April. We’ll go through them specifically in April. 

Clerk: There’s an in-camera session setup if required. 

Smith: If anyone wants to go in-camera give me a wave, but I don’t think we need to. Chief updates. 

Gray: Our officers will be vaccinated by age in phase three, not phase two like the feds say. Our frontline police officers should be prioritized, we’ve met with Strang and relayed our concerns. This is an information item for you. We’re working to advance our position in the line. We’ve recently rolled out a Nova Scotia policy to collect and destroy police uniforms. When our budget ask for an additional staff member wasn’t approved we decided to look at re-assigning a uniformed member, probably out of a school. Happy international women’s day. 

Kent: The vaccine thing, is there a role that we can play? 

Gray: We’re asking for our frontline police officers to be brought up to the second tier. 

Smith: When officers were brought up to the second tier, how did that happen? 

Gray: They’ve been moved up because they respond to medical emergencies. It was because of their union, management, and other political support. 

Kinsella: HRP continues to enforce COVID protocols. We encourage citizens to educate themselves on guidelines. One of our members tested positive on the 26th, and three more were infected at the same facility. Just to Gray’s point, we’re working with the RCMP and NS police chiefs to move our frontline officers up in the COVID vaccination list. This month’s road safety theme is seatbelts. Our traffic unit is out in full force (10 out 530 officers). We have had a lot of people driving more than 50 km/hr over the limit. We participated in a virtual townhall on Feb. 11 at the invitation of Mancini. 

McDougall: Was the townhall virtual? Public? 

Kinsella: Virtual, and people were invited by the councillor. 

Smith: You said it so far hasn’t affected service, but what are you doing to make sure the outbreak is contained? 

Kinsella: We’re working with public health. We’re cleaning things on a regular basis. We’ve been evaluating how we respond on a regular basis. 

Smith: From your understanding, this COVID outbreak is related to a facility and not community spread? 

Kinsella: I don’t think it’s community spread, but it’s not my area of expertise. So far I think we’re in pretty good shape, but I’m relying on public health.  

McDougall: One item for future consideration is we have a new complaints commissioner and it’d be good to hear from them. Just add that to the list of potential presentations in the future. 

Smith: And sending a letter to the new minister of justice? Yes, okay. Anyone want to go in-camera? No? 

*Meeting adjourned*


Commissioner Lindell Smith, Chair (Councillor, District 8)

Commissioner Carole McDougall, Vice Chair

Commissioner Becky Kent (Councillor, District 3)

Commissioner Lisa Blackburn (Councillor, District 14)

Commissioner Natalie Borden

Commissioner Anthony Thomas

Commissioner Carlos Beals





Previous meeting minutes and current agenda:

Previous meeting (Feb. 8)

Previous meeting (Feb. 18 — In-camera meeting)

Current agenda

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