Halifax council votes to review shared policing model

·2 min read
Halifax regional council has unanimously voted to review its shared policing model. (Robert Short/CBC - image credit)
Halifax regional council has unanimously voted to review its shared policing model. (Robert Short/CBC - image credit)

Halifax regional council voted unanimously Tuesday for a review of the blended model of policing in the municipality.

Under the current arrangement, police services are split between the Halifax Regional Police and the Halifax District RCMP. Halifax Regional Police covers Halifax, Dartmouth and Bedford, while the RCMP covers the suburban and rural areas of Halifax Regional Municipality.

Although all councillors voted in favour, a number of them raised concerns.

"This will be an emotional discussion because the former county of Halifax has had a long history with the RCMP," said David Hendsbee. "And our communities have grown up with the RCMP, so to change that over could cause a lot of grief."

Tim Outhit said there are four other police-related reports ongoing and warned an independent review could cost up to $200,000.

"My big concern is that we have not given enough direction," said Outhit. "I certainly support the spirit of this, but I think we have a big tiger by the tail here."

"I don't think we can understate the role of the RCMP in HRM, they currently police 95 per cent of our geographic area," said Pamela Lovelace.

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.

RCMP 'nationally controlled'

Other councillors welcomed the review.

Sam Austin wants to know if the current blended police model limits the municipality when it comes to police reform.

"It is not encouraging when the RCMP cannot manage an apology for the street checks issue," said Austin. "It doesn't fill one with optimism because they're so nationally controlled."

Waye Mason shared Austin's concerns.

"We may want them to go into a new realm of public safety delivery that will be hard for them to do as a force that's run by a hierarchy in Ottawa," said Mason, "so we need to understand what they can and cannot do for us."

Tony Mancini originally brought forward the motion, saying he has been thinking about for a long time.

Policing in the municipality has already twice come under review.

In 2010, the police commission recommended that Halifax Regional Police take over the areas patrolled by RCMP, in part because it would give the municipality more control over policing. The council of the day, however, chose to keep the status quo.

In 2018, the municipality undertook a review of inefficiencies in policing, which led to recommendations affecting both the regional police and RCMP that were adopted in 2020.