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African descent committee requests report on policing

Committee wants information about Black representation on HRM's police force

2 min read
Man speaking into a microphone at a podium.
caption Lindell Smith gives a presentation to regional council's African descent advisory committee on Thursday.

A new municipal committee charged with advising Halifax regional council on African Nova Scotian issues has asked for a report on Black representation in the Halifax Regional Police.

At its second meeting on Thursday, the African descent advisory committee approved an official request to council for a report on the representation of people of African Nova Scotian descent in the police force and the education provided to officers on systemic racism.

The committee, made up of Black community members, had its first meeting in September. Committee member and District 8 Coun. Lindell Smith said the committee was formed in response to calls for more input on municipal matters from Black people in Halifax.

The motion to request the report was not discussed in detail at the meeting and was passed with unanimous support. The meeting included an update from the African Nova Scotian Affairs Integration Office and a presentation by Smith on how the municipal government works.

In an interview about the motion, El Jones, who chaired a council subcommittee that looked at defining defunding the police, said it’s time the city take action beyond compiling statistics and preparing reports.

“I don’t know why we need all these studies,” said Jones, a community leader and Mount Saint Vincent University professor. “We have ample studies so studying things is just another way to delay taking action and actually moving forward on recommendations. Like we have a bunch of recommendations from Wortley.”

She was referring to a 2019 report by Dr. Scott Wortley containing recommendations that included the elimination of street checks by Halifax police. According to a progress report in April by the Board of Police Commissioners, 28 of the 53 recommendations had yet to be completed.

Jones said bureaucracy gets in the way of making changes that she thinks need to happen, including “reworking how we staff mental health and getting police out of mental health,” and putting “money into the budgets of things that people actually need, like addressing the housing crisis.”

Transformation must come from “external pressure,” says Robert Wright

In an interview before the meeting, Robert Wright, the executive director of the African Nova Scotian Justice Institute, said the HRP has historically been unwilling to effect change on its own.

Wright said “if there will be transformation, it will come as a result of external pressure from the community.”

Neither Wright nor Jones is on the committee and neither were in attendance.

Halifax Regional Police declined an interview but commented by email. Their statement said the force is working to recruit a more diverse and inclusive membership.

“Developing trust and confidence in our service is a key priority for HRP, and we recognize that there are many aspects to developing that trust – including training, our daily interactions, us reflecting our community and regular community engagement.”

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Ben Dornan

Ben Dornan is a student in the master of journalism program at King's. He loves writing.

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