Halifax police board doesn’t provide ‘proper oversight,’ says chair

Coun. Lindell Smith says board's oversight is improving, but still lacks resources

The Halifax Board of Police Commissioners doesn’t have proper oversight of municipal police, according to the Halifax councillor who chairs the board.

“We don’t have proper oversight only because we don’t have the resources needed to make things happen faster,” Halifax Coun. Lindell Smith told students at the University of King’s College on Nov. 17.

“The oversight that we have is only as good as the resources we have.”

The problem is that the board doesn’t have the money or staff to do its own research, write its own reports and easily hire lawyers, he said. It has a budget of about $10,000, which only covers meetings and conferences.

With a lack of funding, the board relies on Halifax Regional Police to write the reports they ask for, which is “problematic in many ways,” said Smith.

“As a civilian oversight body, we should be able to not only create our own policies that then are adopted, but also be able to do our own research, because we want to make sure that the research is neutral.”

Because they rely on the police for information, the board also can’t speed up slow-moving policy implementation if the police don’t prioritize it.

Police are still implementing motions from over a year ago, such as a motion that passed in August 2020 to make their policies publicly accessible online.

That being said, the board’s oversight has been “getting better” in recent years, said Smith. The Board of Police Commissioners created a policy manual in 2018 about how to govern itself and periodically updates it.

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