Creation of committee to define 'defunding police' takes step forward

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The Halifax Board of Police Commissioners has endorsed in principle the creation of a committee that would define what it means to defund the police.

Members of the commission will look into who should sit on the committee and how the process will be paid for, and report back next month.

El Jones, a well-known community activist and educator, called for wide-ranging conversations on the issue during an appearance Monday before the commission.

"I would suggest that a definition is only meaningful if it is accompanied by a process that explores how defunding can be put into practice," said Jones.

Public meetings next year

Jones said the role of the committee would be to research what's being done across the country and to hold community meetings, starting early next year with a report completed by the spring.

The report would make short-term and long-term recommendations on things like sobering centres and wellness checks.

"I don't think this is the final say or the be-all and end-all of what a program of reforming police is — I think that would be unrealistic," said Jones. "I think this provides a path forward."

Committee members should represent a broad spectrum of Nova Scotians, including members of the Mi'kmaw, Black and LGBTQ communities, said Jones. The committee should also include new immigrants, people with disabilities and those who work in mental health.

Police commission members said the message needs to be reinforced that defunding the police is not about abolishing the police.

"I look at this as asking what's possible," said Carole MacDougall. "I am so supportive of the work we are going to be doing."