HRP, Province stonewalling inquiries into Know Your Rights initiative

HRP not doing the work required by Wortley?

During the Board of Police Commissioners meeting on June 17, 2019, Councillor Lindell Smith put forward a motion. This motion directed the Halifax Regional Police to create a pamphlet that would let people know what their rights are when interacting with the police. The full text of the motion reads:

THAT the Board of Police Commissioners request that the Chief of Police prepare a community communication strategy that clearly and straightforwardly communicates what a citizen’s rights are in situations where Police interact with residents and community by; 

At the Board of Police Commissioners meeting on Monday April 19, 2021, Councillor Smith asked what progress had been made so far on the pamphlet. In response to Smith’s inquiries Chief Kinsella said the HRP were looking at a provincial Know Your Rights campaign and that he was waiting for the Department of Justice to do the work that was in progress

When contacted for this story, Councillor Smith said he remembered a pamphlet that was a draft created and circulated to him in early 2020, when meetings were still happening in person. He also said he had not yet followed up with his inquiries on Monday’s meeting (which is completely understandable given his meeting schedule this week with Council, Budget Committee, BOPC. Which doesn’t include his constituency work or any of the other stuff politicians do). 

Immediately after the meeting Committee Trawler asked the Halifax Regional Police the following in an email and had the subsequent email exchange, edited for clarity:

Committee Trawler: In today’s meeting Kinsella said the HRP was waiting for the province since the province has the lead on the initiative. But I’m just wondering why that’s the case when it was something the HRP was specifically tasked to do in 2019. 

HRP spokesperson: The Chief addressed that in the BOPC meeting that you referenced. Please refer to his comments made in that meeting.

Committee Trawler: In the meeting the Chief said the HRP was waiting on the province, the motion says it’s up to the HRP. So I’m just a bit confused as to what exactly the HRP is waiting on the province for, hoping to get some clarification, as it seems like there’s nothing to wait for.

Committee Trawler: Sorry, just to be clear, the motion explicitly directed the HRP to create know your rights information package. In the meeting, Kinsella said he wanted it to be a provincial campaign and so is waiting on the province. I’m just wondering why the HRP isn’t doing what they were directed to by the BOPC motion. Why is the DoJ the lead on something the HRP was specifically directed to do?   

HRP Spokesperson: You should speak with the province in relation to their participation in the campaign. It would be inappropriate for us to speak on their behalf.

Committee Trawler: Can you explain why I need to speak to the province at all for something it seems like should be able to be completed as directed in-house by the HRP? 

The HRP has yet to respond to the last email. But since it seemed like the province was the lead on the project, Committee Trawler reached out to the province and had the following exchange, edited for clarity: 

Committee Trawler: I’m just following up with the Board of Police Commissioners meeting on Monday. In response to a question about a Know Your Rights initiative the HRP was directed to do by the board they said they were waiting on the province for… something? It wasn’t clear. So I’m trying to figure out what the province is doing for the HRP and why the province was needed at all for a motion that directed HRP to do this in-house. 

Department of Justice spokesperson: We continue to take action to advance the recommendations in the Wortley Report. We have been actively engaged with police, community and other stakeholders. This work, along with the Department’s other work to advance social justice and equity for those interacting with the justice system, is ongoing.

Committee Trawler: Sorry, what specifically is the province doing for the HRP when it comes to the Know Your Rights campaign? How much longer will it take? 

Department of Justice spokesperson: We are engaging with stakeholders. The work is ongoing.

Committee Trawler: What exactly is the work? Is the province creating the Know Your Rights pamphlet? 

Department of Justice spokesperson: We have no additional comment.

So as of now, without a FOIPOP, there’s no way for the public to find out the status of this motion.

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