Independent lawyer for Board of Police Commissioners not required

HRP pass the buck on Know Your Rights initiative

Board of Police Commissioners, April 19, 2021

Meeting recap (the important stuff):

The Board of Police Commissioners decided not to have permanent independent legal council and heard a number of reports and information updates from the cities’ two police services. 

Commissioner Smith initially requested a report about whether or not the board should have independent lawyers, as the city’s lawyers represent both the board and the HRP. The city’s lawyers said it’s absolutely within purview if the board wants but it would be expensive. The city’s lawyers said legally there’s no conflict issue for their legal team to advise both, even though the perception could be different. In cases where there would be real conflict, legal or perceived, the recommendation to the board was that they get a second legal opinion on an as needed basis. The city lawyers also made this recommendation because having an outside lawyer at every meeting to answer procedural meeting questions could be quite expensive. They passed a motion to formalize the process by which they could get a second legal opinion, if required. 

In the Wortley Report implementation update, Commissioner Smith asked about the progress on the Know Your Rights initiative Smith put forward in July 2019. Kinsella said that it was a request directed mainly at the province and so the Department of Justice was taking the lead. The Know Your Rights motion from the board meeting on July 2019 specifically directed the HRP to create an “easy to read ‘know your rights’ information pamphlet or guide that outlines an Officers and citizens obligations when conducting a stop, interaction, or investigation. This information will also be available on HRM and HRP’s website.” Committee Trawler has asked the HRP why they’re waiting for the province and will update the story with the response when it’s received. [Update: You can read the response from HRP and the Department of Justice here.]  

The board also heard an update on HRP’s implementation of the Auditor General’s IT audit (read more about that here). One of the concerns with the IT audit was it exposed the fact that the police lied about their progress implementing IT security measures to the Board of Police Commissioners and the board didn’t know until the AG’s audit. Commissioner Blackburn asked what was in place and Kinsella assured the board they had internal measures in place to prevent it from happening again. He said understood the skepticism and distrust that was caused and the HRP could bring the information to the board if it was requested. No commissioner requested this information. In an email Commissioner Blackburn said the lacking details in the public portion of the meeting were due to the operational nature of the information and it was touched on in the in-camera portion of the meeting.

The HRP says it’s completed the following steps from the AG’s IT audit:

And finally, HRP are planning to formally transfer two of their people to the RCMP. Although the decision is made at a level above the board, they were asked to write a letter in support of the decision. Both chiefs also support the RCMP’s request.  

Editor’s note: This story has been edited to replace an educated guess with the information confirmed by Commissioner Blackburn.

Who said what (paraphrased): 

Smith: Commissioner Borden isn’t here for this meeting because her term is over.  First order of business is an update on the preparation for the two year Wortley update. So any information you want (or don’t want) in the two year update you need to mention here. 

McDougall: Who’s this report for? Us? The community? That will impact what gets included in the report. I think it could help address some of the communications issues. The report is for us, but who else as well? 

Smith: I think it’s public facing because we get updates almost every meeting. There’s no real easy place for us to track what has been done over the past two years. I see it as public facing. Do you have questions for us, Kinsella? 

Kinsella: Just comments, there are a number of recommendations *frozen screen* a number of them are shared – pardon? 

Smith: You froze. 

Kinsella: Hopefully I won’t freeze again (you better there’s a cop on the screen! hahahah). I think it’s important to remember that the RCMP and HRP share recommendations and some that are led by the Department of Justice. *Freezing on and off, it’s hard to follow* The next set is around data collection, there’s ongoing work on that. The community relations piece, there’s been a number of outreach and work items we’ve done. The apology and follow up work. The chief’s advisory committee, etc. We’ll have to continue the community relations long term, they won’t end anytime soon, nor should they. *Freezing* context *freezing* timelines *freezing* further consideration. I’m open to any questions. 

Blackburn: I think it’s important that this report be taken to the community for further discussion. 

Smith: The recommendations put forward and where we are in completing them will be in it. It’s important to have the timeline of events, from report being released to apology, etc. Having a letter or something from the DPAD or the Human Rights Commission for their opinion on how the implementation been going. No motion on that item, so on to IT audit report

Kinsella: I won’t be putting my video on to hopefully make the connection better. Last meeting we gave a memo to the board, it was high level stuff. We’re continuing to do that work. This month we’re going to report to the board and do so quarterly. We’ve agreed to implement all of the recommendations, starting with the highest risk stuff. We’ve been having meetings internally. Just to reiterate we take the findings of the audit very seriously and will fix them in a timely fashion. We sent an information report to the board and our plan was to do four recommendations by April, and we’ve met them. Regular updates to the board, done. Establish reporting relationship between the IT officer and everyone who uses the secure IT stuff, done. Update our *frozen* asset list, assets *frozen* within vehicles and that asset list will rest with our *frozen* IT man, constantly up to date. Number 10-

Smith: We keep losing you. 

Clerk: We can connect via phone? 

Smith: Please, let’s take 2 mins, we’ll start again with number 2. 

Kinsella: Number 10, making sure our IT policies are good enough for working from home, we have policies now in place and staff need to read and sign an agreement saying they understand. It’s not just for COVID, it’s any work from home. It’ll be retroactive. 

Blackburn: The most troubling part of this report was that the information given to us wasn’t the most accurate or complete. And number 1 is steps to make sure the information we get is accurate, what are those steps? 

Kinsella: I’ve given you a verbal update and the reporting. We hadn’t had a report going back to July 2019. I understand the history here and the skepticism it’s caused. Today was the first reporting mechanism, and they’ve been addressed in the manner I’ve mentioned. We have documentation in our various departments to prove things have been fulfilled, if you want to see that. Some of it we can’t make public but it’s available to you or the auditor to satisfy the requirements are met. 

Smith: Number 10 and the new agreement for teleworking, is this just for IT staff or anyone that can work from home?

Kinsella: Anyone who can work from home in the HRP. 

Smith: When members can work from home, officers with their own phones or whatever, would you need an asset agreement for that? 

Kinsella: For any device that can access our network remotely, anyone who uses one has to sign an agreement. 

Smith: As this progresses you’ll be able to the type of devices that could be covered by this? 

Kinsella: All of our cellphones are issued by the HRM and we follow HRM cellphone use policy. 

Smith: We have in-camera discussion on some of the other items, so we’ll move on for now. Financial updates from the chiefs. 

Kinsella: We gave you a report, our budget is approved annually by you and council. This takes us through to December 2020, if you have any questions. 

McDougall: Is there a typo in the report? Should it be December 2020 instead of 2021? 

Kinsella: Yes. 

Smith: Don’t you love the sticklers! The youth advisory position, did that get moved to Parks and Rec or is it on your budget? 

Kinsella: Our budget, they administer. 

Smith: Did any of the COVID cuts affect that program at all? 

Kinsella: That’s a question for Parks and Rec. 

Smith: It’s in your budget but managed by Park and Rec? 

Kinsella: Yes. 

Smith: RCMP’s up

Gray: I have direct control of discretionary funding, and we’re currently coming in under budget, but we’ve yet to align the last two reporting months with the final budget, so we might come in slightly over but it’s been fixed already. 

Smith: We’ve talked about this before but can you speak a little about this budget and what oversight you have over this budget? It’s provincial money and we don’t have a say really. Who are you responsible to and what for? 

Gray; The contract is a service agreement between the city and the province. The province gives money to H div and the H div is accountable to the province. My discretionary spending is accountable to RCMP finance. 

Smith: How do we get information on how you’re spending your discretionary fund? City to province? 

Gray: That makes sense, yes. 

Smith; If we have more direct questions about this discretionary, if we want more information how do we get it? 

CAO: The RCMP contract? 

Smith: The discretionary money. 

CAO: It’s through the feds and province, you’d have to go through the contract management committee, we have contacts there. 

Smith: Just for the future, if we want more information, do we need to direct you to do it? Or do we do it directly? 

CAO: There’s a bunch of ways to do it, I’m on the Contract Management Committee, and it’s just restarted. Going through that committee or write directly to the Director of Policing Services of NS and that board. 

Smith: If we do, for any reason want that information, that’s how we’d get it. 

CAO: If you give me your questions I can do it directly too. 

Smith: Next item, strategic plan updates

Kinsella: We haven’t had an update in the past while, pre-COVID we did it quarterly. We adjusted timelines and outcomes since the pandemic. There’s three parts to the report we delivered, and it’s all in the report. Most of the 2019/21 that have been completed have been previously reported to you. 

Smith: There are a few items on here. 

McDougall: The first item is employee engagement working group, I recall there were morale issues and the working group was to address that, but what’s happened with that? Is there a plan being implemented or some way of dealing with that? 

Kinsella: The plan was to create the engagement working group, which we did. It’s been waylaid by COVID, but they’re meeting again to start addressing some of the issues, like improving morale or working conditions. 

McDougall: The hub model assessment, there was some detailed information from Scotland about using the hub model, what’s the status of the hub model? 

Kinsella: It was investigated and looked at, and we tried to figure out if it was the most appropriate model for the HRM. It was researched and has worked well in other areas of the world and Canada. We’re working with a public safety advisor which has components of the hub model. We’ve determined that the hub model has some good things but isn’t a good fit for the HRM, we’re working on something similar. There have been setbacks due to COVID but we have plans and reports heading to council. 

McDougall: The Sexualized Violence Prevention Awareness Campaign. There was commitment that it wasn’t going to be a one-and-done campaign. Has there been any follow up with what has been successful and what shouldn’t be done again? 

Kinsella: It was not designed to be a one-and-done, it’s an annual event late August into September, tied into universities. On a lesser scale, things happen during the year related to that and we’re constantly monitoring to see what needs to be done. We’re liaising with universities but there were fewer people here and the nightlife was toned down this year. 

McDougall: The Priority Response Review, I look forward to the report on that. I think it’s an interesting initiative. 

Kent: When you talk about your collaboration you speak to the universities, have you had any subject matter experts from women’s orgs in the community like Adsum or Bryony House? They deal with the outcome of the unprevented sexualized violence. Have you done any work with them? I would encourage you to look towards agencies that aren’t even in the HRM. Part of doing the plans with universities, some students may be more comfortable with organizations in their home towns where they’re more comfortable. There are many agencies in the province that could be a great resource. 

Kinsella: Through our SAIT Unit and Victims Services, we have considerable conversations with Avalon and YWCA. We have extensive outreach with them and have for years. We have a trauma informed response and ensure that training is given to all our members. 

Kent: The trauma informed response report, has it been developed? 

Kinsella: I think so, what I can tell you is that we’ve trained 113 members (of ~530) in trauma informed response. It’s also part of all of our training. We’ve recently restricted our Special Victims Unit to better supervise our Sexual Assault Unit and provide better support for victims. We’ve separated SAIT from Homicide. 

Kent: You should train your policymakers in trauma informed approaches if you haven’t done that already. Do I have time? Do we have time limits here? 

Smith: You’re fine.

Kent: Social media, it’s around being current for our residents being on the receiving end of communications. I have issue with long diatribes of text. So many of us are glued to social media platforms (closes Twitter tab), we need things that will connect quickly in a very short period of time, have our communications folks focused on those efforts? I see a traffic safety week come out, and it’s a whole bunch of words. We’re raising a generation of short attention spans. We need to adapt our messaging to what people are reading. 

Kinsella: Having a trauma informed view on policy, we’re doing an extensive policy revamp and have staff dedicated to that, and one of the staff is level two trained to trauma informed approaches. And it’s not just sexual violence, we’re including any areas where someone could receive trauma, like a car crash. For comms strategy, we’ve put out a number of (absolutely garbage) videos recently. We don’t have a videographer and require volunteers. We do a great number and good job sending out tweets and reminders. There are some times where the media is looking for more information and so our media releases need to be a little longer. And it prevents follow up from the media if we can provide details they’re looking for. 

Smith: The Know Your Rights campaign, what was the rollout or potential rollout for that piece? 

Kinsella: We were looking at a more provincial campaign to the Know Your Rights campaign. So that everyone could know their rights, and our members could as well. We’re waiting on them, there is work in progress, but there’s more work to be done. The Department of Justice has the lead on that. I can follow up with them but we can do one in the HRM and share it, if you want. 

Smith: There was a motion from the commission on this specific campaign for the HRP to develop one, it may have had a provincial aspect, but I think it was HRP specific. I’d have to go back and look. I don’t remember how we do the orientation of the new folks, McDougall, did you do one a while back? 

McDougall: It was a PowerPoint.

Smith: We’ll have new commissioners coming soon, so it might be good for an orientation, but that’s a side note.   

Kent: Just to piggyback on Victims Services, I’m glad to hear you have recognized the importance of Victims Services for everyone, not just victims of sexualized violence. I’ve recently talked to some of the people in our communities where there had been deaths on their streets and they were unaware that Victims Services were available to them. On the comms piece, I’ll extend an invitation, I want you to see me as a partner in communications. I’d like to help formulate some of these short clips, we can collaborate. 

Smith: Let’s do a quick five minute break and come back at 2 p.m. 

Gray: *Is reading a prepared statement*

*Moment of silence*

Smith: On to RCMP updates of their strategic plan

Gray: We’ve aligned our priorities and deliverables with the HRM this year. Even though Halifax district has to adhere to the province, we tried to align with the HRM. We kept the strategic plan for a year due to COVID. I’ll just highlight some higher level stuff. We have a number of different initiatives about ensuring service excellence, developing a more rigid mentorship program, creating a new internal and external communications strategy. Questions? 

McDougall: Just one question, there is/was communication with councillors, can we be part of that too? Is it specific to council work? It’d be good to share with everyone. 

Gray: We’re trying a measurable approach. We had an RCMP 101 training for new councillors. You’ll be included in the next steps. 

McDougall: The online training we participated in was excellent. I was impressed with it. 

Smith: My question is on the communications piece, I appreciate all the emails, the formal job shadowing plan, is that new members of RCMP? Members of the public? 

Gray: We completed a succession plan for the district, we are able to identify a number of opportunities for providing our officers the ability to work in different opportunities within the organization before making a leap to a new job or specialized area. 

Smith: Next item, independent legal council for the board, first up, quick presentation!

McDougall: What are we doing about supporting the redirecting of funds? 

SMith: Forgot about this, skipped ahead. We have a letter from the chief attached to the item, can you give a quick overview of the request? 

Gray: The original funding model was approved in 2018 and I just want to have it altered. There’s been a number of challenges with this staffing arrangement so we want to bring it from the HRP staffing to internal RCMP. Your support means we can bring it to HRM finance and they can get it done. 

Smith: HRP has no concerns with this? 

Kinsella: I’ve talked to Gray about this and discussed it with command in the HRP. When they were brought to the HRM, they were intended to staff RCMP areas, so we have no issues with this. 

Smith: This going to the RCMP budget, is this through the contract with the province of your discretionary? 

Gray: Hasn’t been decided yet, but it’s done provincially, so I think it’s a province thing.

Smith: The allocation that comes from the province would just go to you instead of HRP so HRP isn’t losing funding? 

Gray: Yes.

Smith: So formally, what do we need to do here? It changes the approved budget of the HRP. 

Gray: The direction we received was a notification to HRM finance that everyone’s been notified and you support it. 

CAO: A letter to me or CFO would suffice. 

Smith: Some help with the formal wording, but a motion along the lines of what Gray said?  

Marty Ward (legal): A letter saying that is all you need. 

Smith: These are not new positions, they’re ones that are already filled. *Reads the motion as typed into the chat by the clerk based on the conversation above

CAO: That works. 

McDougall: Should we change the grammar to make sure it doesn’t sound like the RCMP is reallocating the funds? 

*Grammar debate*

Smith: I think we’re good.  

M/S/CVoteAye Unanimous

Smith: Now moving to independent lawyers, presentation. 

Katherine Salsman: I hope the report I’ve provided answers your questions, but if not, I can answer questions. The biggest question is, is there legal conflict of interest in the HRM being a lawyer for the BOPC. The answer is legally no, it would be extremely rare for a legal conflict of interest situation to happen. But there’s more than the legal conflict of interest, the perception could be that the city’s lawyers advising both could be seen as improper. So there may be situations where the board would want that. There’s nothing in the Police Act that prevents it from happening. How it can happen, two options: 1) obtain a lawyer permanently for every meaning. This would be wasteful since HRM lawyers can advise on procedural issues so we recommend, 2) do it ad hoc as needed, and have it be approved by the solicitor, council or CAO depending. 

Ward: We have a different model than other provinces, other places they report to a police board completely independent of the city. In this city it’s our board, who are answerable to council. But there are some things you can do outside of council itself. The client for legal services is the city, which means council itself. The issue would be a perception of conflict even if there isn’t. The other situation is a practical matter, the law isn’t certain, there’s a lot of grey in the law. There are some situations where you would want a separate opinion but there are clear advantages in the model you use now. Most of the issues at this meeting are procedural ones and our legal services are good in this area. We also work with a lot of different areas in the HRM which can be beneficial sometimes. You wouldn’t need an outside lawyer in most cases, so the issue is whether or not you can get one, if you need it. 

Smith: There’s a motion. *Reads the motion for agenda item 10.1.6.*

Kent: I think this is the most fiscally responsible choice. The perception is sometimes the most grey issue, but I think this is the way to go. 

Blackburn: I agree, it’s good to have this option, but I think they’re right, the vast majority of things we need a lawyer for is administrative. 

Smith: The question I had, understanding Ontario’s police commission, and British Colombia’s, is it similar to Ontario’s? 

Salsman: Yes, they’re closer to Ontario than our model. 

Smith: The financial implications of having a lawyer that we might not use for all these meetings, I get. Do we need to attach funding to this motion for the ad hoc model? If there’s an issue that comes up at a meeting, do we defer an item to get the opinion? What are the logistics? How do we make the request to council? 

Ward: You’d defer pending independent legal opinion. 

Smith: Do we request money for this? How do we formalize this? 

Ward: We put the second part of the motion in to refer it to Dubé for the funding. I don’t think funding at that point would be an issue, not to speak for the CAO. 

Kent: I think it would be hard to project an amount. 

Ward: As lawyers we have a professional obligation to step back from conflict of interest, which is why we think this motion is the way to go. The board has become much more active in the past five years, which is excellent, but the first 10 years I was here there was not a chance this would ever come up.  

Smith: Maybe for the next budget we’ll keep this in mind. We do have some oversight for our budget as a commission but I think we may want to look at putting money into the board’s budget should this be needed in the future.   


Smith: Update on the BOPC Committee to Define Defunding Police. Last week we had a meeting with Jones and the people supporting the work. The outstanding questions were the community engagement pieces and they’re going to get back to us on that. It’s not set in stone but smaller engagements with targeted groups and one or two larger public meetings. We’re trying to figure out how much money is needed to compensate people for their time to participate if they’re not working or can’t afford it at this time. We’re working on getting the survey out. The last piece is the timeline and I think it’s the end of June? Yes, end of June for final report or recommendation.

Smith: We also want to make sure all of this information is easily accessible to the public, it may look like the Cornwallis setup. As soon as we have these logistics we’ll get back to you. 

Kent: I didn’t respond to the email on the survey, do you want me to do it via email or here? 

Smith: You have until the end of today. 

Kent: I’ll send an email. 

McDougall: The Canadian Association of Police Governance are having two summits that are virtual, it’s kind of governance 101. The opportunity to learn and dialogue would be good. And there’s one in June for how to develop policies for body worn cameras. Once we pay the registration fee we can have 10 people join and they’re three hour sessions. I think you were bringing it forward today so we could see if members were interested and if we wanted to participate. I’m participating, it’s always a good idea to learn.   

Smith: There’s a motion. *Reads the motion

McDougall: Can you make sure we include an additional eight people who are interested? 

Kent: Do we need to name people? 

Smith: We’re just trying to formalize the process, so when it comes, we can do it. 


Smith: A meeting was held on the 8th of the Management Employee Relations Committee, there were a couple items mentioned. The only one I’ll mention now, the Journey to Change program, we got an update from Simmonds, it’s been well received and they are extending training to the union for those that want to attend. 

Kinsella: I don’t have too much to add, the bulk of the rest of the conversation was operational in nature. 

Smith: The meeting minutes from these meetings, can they be sent to the commission? 

Kinsella: We should talk about that at agenda setting. 

Smith: That works but there might be a role to share some of this information with the commission. Up next is the update from the chiefs.

Kinsella: Thanks to our dispatchers for telecommunications week. Thanks to those that volunteer with or our members who volunteer. And it’s sexual assault awareness month. And traffic, the road safety theme is aggressive driving and speeding. We have social media posts for it. Members of the HRP Traffic Unit (10 people of ~530) issued a bunch of tickets. We encourage anyone to call 911 if they think they see drunk drivers. We’ve introduced divisional commanders to their councillors.  

Gray: Thank you everyone for participating in our moment of silence. We are also supported by 73 volunteers in our district. Stats for traffic for us for March. We had 28 charges for drunk driving and 41 people called 911 reporting drunk drivers. We continue to enforce health protection. We’ve had over 2000 calls for service related to COVID, most of our tickets are for gatherings in calls, a lot of them come from community complaints. There’s management reviews happening around the Preston detachment. We’re restarting our block training, officers will update scenario and firearms training.

McDougall: There’s interest from new councillors in their orientation process, and seeing as how we have civilian commissioners, can we be included in what new councillors are offered since we’re making similar decisions? 

Gray: Updating our comms strategy includes you. 

McDougall: I meant to say this after I heard from Kinsella but didn’t get the chance, but before COVID there was a meeting in Dartmouth North and the HRP, and it’s interesting to hear the kinds of questions in those meetings. 

Smith: Before we go in-camera, are there any motions from commissioners?   

*Meeting moves in-camera

*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 Anthony Thomas





Previous meeting minutes and current agenda:

Previous meeting

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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