Councillor wants review of Halifax's shared policing model with RCMP

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A Halifax Regional Police emblem is seen on a police officer in Halifax on July 2, 2020. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press - image credit)
A Halifax Regional Police emblem is seen on a police officer in Halifax on July 2, 2020. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press - image credit)

A Halifax councillor is tabling a motion for the city to independently review the way police services are delivered in the municipality, which is split between the Halifax Regional Police and the Halifax District RCMP.

Tony Mancini, councillor for Harbourview-Burnside-Dartmouth East, said he believes it's the only municipality in Canada that has two police forces.

Currently, the urban core, Sambro Loop, and Purcells Cove-Herring Cove Loop are policed by HRP, while remaining areas fall under RCMP jurisdiction.

There's also an integrated unit, the Criminal Investigation Division, that includes officers from both HRP and RCMP.

"My motion is not about anti-RCMP. I think our citizens deserve us asking this question: is this the right model? If it's a different kind of model, what does that look like? Will it give us higher standards of community safety?" he said.

Amalgamation

The decision to share policing dates back to 1996, when Halifax and surrounding cities were amalgamated to create the Halifax Regional Municipality.

Halifax, Bedford, and Dartmouth police forces were amalgamated into one, the Halifax Regional Police, while rural communities outside the core of the municipality were policed by RCMP.

Tony Mancini, councillor for Harbourview-Burnside-Dartmouth East, said HRM is the only city in Canada that has policing duties split between two forces.
Tony Mancini, councillor for Harbourview-Burnside-Dartmouth East, said HRM is the only city in Canada that has policing duties split between two forces.(CBC)

But Mancini said just because the reasoning behind the split forces made sense in the early days of amalgamation, doesn't mean it holds up to the test of time.

"Halifax Regional Municipality is a different place than it was 25 years ago. We've grown dramatically, we have much more diversity," he said.

'No authority over RCMP'

The purpose of the review is to look at the effectiveness of having two forces — and while police-community relations are not the focus of Mancini's motion, he says it's also "somewhat connected" to the movement to de-fund police.

"I'm all for reallocating non-police resources so that police departments can focus on policing," he said.

"If we do some of that reallocating of our resources, where is RCMP in all that? We have no authority over RCMP. It's a model that we cut a cheque once a year and they do their thing. It's really separate from HRP."

The proposed 2021-22 budget for police saw a $1.5 million increase to the RCMP budget, bringing it to $29,419,000.

Mancini referenced the 2019 Wortley report, which found Black people in Halifax six times more likely to be street checked than white people, and the subsequent apology from Halifax's police chief as an example of having no say over RCMP.

"The HRP chief apologized for street checks, we hear nothing from RCMP. We have no ability to influence them at all to to make an apology."

Motion to council

Asking for a review of the city's policing model is something Mancini has been thinking about for a long time. He said it's a coincidence that his motion comes a few months after former Justice Minister Mark Furey asked his department to review provincial policing models.

There are three possible recommendations to come from the review: keeping the status quo, identifying growing jurisdictions that should be covered by HRP while keeping RCMP for smaller rural areas, or deciding that a single police force is the way to go.

"If that's the case, we need to look at, what does that look like? How much does that cost? What's the ratio of police officers to residents? Will that be a better coverage of our policing? Those are big questions we need to have answered," he said.

Mancini said he has no preconceptions of what the outcome will be until city staff conduct a review and present their report. He's asking the review to be independent of HRP and the RCMP.

The motion will be put to council for consideration on Tuesday, April 6.

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