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Jones calls on Halifax police board to rethink department’s role in society

Board hears findings of 218-page report on defunding to city commissioners

2 min read
A Zoom screenshot of Halifax Regional Police Chief Dan Kinsella and Deputy Chief Reid McCoombs sitting at a table in front of a blue wall with HRP logos. McCoombs is looking through what appears to be the subcommittee's report on defunding the police.
caption In this screenshot, Halifax Regional Police Chief Dan Kinsella (centre) and Deputy Chief Reid McCoombs listen to an online police board meeting. McCoombs looks through what appears to be the subcommittee's report on defunding the police.
Lane Harrison

El Jones wants people in Halifax to wonder why we rely on the police to handle many social problems.

Jones is one of the lead authors of Defunding the Police: Defining the Way Forward for HRM, a report presented to the Halifax board of police commissioners meeting on Monday.

The report contains 36 recommendations. Jones told the board some can be implemented almost immediately.

That includes a call for HRP policies to be uploaded online and for the city to not provide any more money for body cameras, which the report concludes make little difference in police conduct.

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But the report also recommends many long-term changes.

“It is not just a notion of saying, ‘Oh, the police need to change what they’re doing,’ ” Jones said during her presentation.

“We also more broadly need to rethink how we are constructing society. For many decades, as we discussed in the report, we have disinvested and defunded social services, and then turned to the police to fill in the gaps.”

A major part of this process is called “detasking,” one of the report’s four pillars to define defunding the police, which means delegating some police tasks to more appropriate community organizations.

Specifically, the report recommends detasking mental health crisis response, sexual assault reporting and traffic enforcement and safety from the regional police.

The report’s three other pillars are reforms to police practices, oversight and accountability; reforms that promote community safety through policy; and financial reforms that cause police budgets to depend on performance metrics and encourage public participation in budgeting.

The report was authored by Jones, a well-known community activist; Tari Ajadi, a PhD student in political science at Dalhousie University; Harry Critchley, a law student at Dalhousie and member of the police board; and Julia Rodgers, a PhD student in political science at Dal.

Earlier in the meeting, Halifax Regional Police Chief Dan Kinsella presented the department’s reasoning for a police budget increase of more than $2 million for the 2022-2023 fiscal year.

The board decided to delay its vote on the budget until a public consultation meeting can be held.

Lindell Smith, District 8 councillor and the board’s chair, said in the meeting that this public consultation should take place in the next two weeks.

This is “kind of doing participatory budgeting,” Jones said in an interview with The Signal, which the report recommends and means a community voting on where money is spent.

People won’t be able to vote at the upcoming consultation, but Haligonians will be able to share their thoughts on the budget for up to five minutes each.

Commissioners welcomed the report. But Smith called on the board to follow through on their verbal reception.

“It’s one thing to say, ‘Yeah, we support it,’ ” Smith said, “But it’s another thing to actually do the work.”

The board may hold a special meeting to discuss the report in the near future, Smith said.

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About the author

Lane Harrison

Lane Harrison is a fourth-year multimedia journalist from Toronto, Ontario. He works as the editor-in-chief of the Dalhousie Gazette, Dalhousie's...

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