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Halifax police board to review cops’ communication policies

Board to consider policies for Halifax Regional Police and RCMP

2 min read
caption Commissioner Harry Critchley reads his motion for a new communication policy for Halifax police
Cam Towner

The Halifax Board of Police Commissioners voted to review existing RCMP and Halifax Regional Police communications policies at their meeting on Monday, with the goal of drafting their own.

The motion for a new communications strategy was drafted by commissioner Harry Critchley, and is aimed at protecting “public perceptions of the impartiality of police complaint investigations — and thus public confidence in the complaints system more generally.”

Critchley’s motion focuses on limiting but not prohibiting the ability of the police to make public statements about matters that are under internal investigation.

The chair of the board, Coun. Lindell Smith, said that the wording of the policy will be important.

“If it’s not written in a way that allows the general public to hear from our leaders, it could mean that we might not have as much transparency with chiefs as we’ve seen,” Smith said in an interview after the meeting.

“But it could also mean for the public that we wouldn’t see biases happening when chiefs or other officers are talking about bigger issues.”

The motion was written to address concerns sparked in July when Coun. Waye Mason raised the issue of an email regarding an active police complaint: The controversial police stop in North Preston, where Dean Simmonds, an HRP superintendent, was pulled over by RCMP and ordered out of the car at gunpoint.

In the meeting, Critchley referenced a case where HRP Chief Dan Kinsella said that police actions taken on Aug. 18 during housing protests were appropriate. Police deployed pepper spray on protesters.

Discussion was stopped when Kinsella interrupted Critchley saying that investigations on that incident were ongoing.

“And there’s allegations clearly being made from across the table and I don’t believe commissioner Critchley is doing the investigation. I might be wrong on that but I don’t believe he is,” said Kinsella.

Commissioner Becky Kent moved to defer a draft of the policy as she questioned whether the board was trying to “reinvent the wheel.” Several other commissioners had questions about what the RCMP and HRP communication policies look like.

The draft was deferred until early 2022 for staff to review the current policies and practices used by the RCMP and HRP and identify areas where a board policy could be useful.

“The bigger goal is that with all policies that are relevant to the commission that one day they can come online,” said Smith. “Our chief has agreed various times that that does need to happen.”

This isn’t the first time the board has tried to make police policies public. In 2020 commissioner Lisa Blackburn passed a motion to create a website for HRP internal policies related to the conduct of service members, conflicts of interest, complaints, and use of force.

Currently, no such website exists.

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About the author

Cam Towner

Cameron is a 4th-year journalism student from Innisfil, Ontario, and has lived in Halifax since 2017. He works as the Head of Broadcast for the...

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