Blue Line

Statement from the Halifax Board of Police Commissioners regarding independent review

May 3, 2023  By Halifax Regional Municipality

May 3, 2023, Halifax, N.S. – The Board of Police Commissioners for the Halifax Regional Municipality has commissioned an independent civilian review of the issues relating to the Board’s oversight, governance and policy responsibilities that arise out of the response by Halifax Regional Police (HRP) to protests on Aug. 18, 2021.

On Aug. 18, 2021, tent occupants in various public spaces, including municipal parks, were directed to remove their encampments, with the assistance or participation of municipal compliance officers, Parks & Recreation staff and HRP. Concerns have been expressed about the role and involvement of Halifax Regional Police in the eviction of unhoused and/or underhoused individuals and in its handling of the related protests.

The Board has retained Cooper, Sandler, Shime & Schwartzentruber LLP (“the Reviewer”) to conduct an independent civilian review. The Reviewer’s members have served as reviewers, senior counsel or advisors in over 20 independent systemic reviews, public inquiries or systemic investigations, including independent civilian reviews of a number of police services.

The review is scheduled to begin on June 1, 2023 and culminate in a public report, to include systemic findings and recommendations to be completed on or before May 31, 2024.

The subject matter of the review is fully set out in the enclosed Terms of Reference. The topics include but are not limited to:

  • The adequacy or appropriateness of the Board’s existing policies and rules;
  • The adequacy or appropriateness of HRP’s priorities, objectives and goals, as well as any programs or strategies to address those priorities, objectives and goals, insofar as they may relate to the eviction or potential eviction of unhoused and/or underhoused individuals from public spaces; and
  • The adequacy of oversight and governance mechanisms and practices employed by the Board to address related policing activities and to ensure that police services are delivered in a manner consistent with community values, needs and expectations.

To address the subject matter of the review, the Reviewer may consider a range of issues, including eight specifically identified in the Terms of Reference. Several are reproduced below:

  • Decision-making relating to potential evictions of unhoused and/or underhoused individuals from public spaces, and enforcement action related thereto;
  • Communication, engagement or consultation strategies in relation to community organizations, service providers, other stakeholders and the public, as they relate to relevant policing activities;
  • The adequacy of existing policies, standards, strategies or practices to de-escalate potentially confrontational situations relevant to this review, while appropriately addressing public safety, including the safety of those in crisis shelters;
  • The adequacy of existing policies, standards, strategies or practices to address the use of force (including the use of pepper spray) and/or to prevent its disproportionate use in relation to the types of police activities relevant to this review; and
  • The adequacy of existing HRP strategies, programs and competencies to build and maintain positive relationships with marginalized or vulnerable community members who are unhoused and/or underhoused.

Following the completion of the report, the Board will examine the systemic findings and recommendations made by the Reviewer and develop a strategic plan to address the issues identified.

For more information regarding the Board of Police Commissioners and the independent review visit the website. The Reviewer will also establish a website in the near future to facilitate outreach and engagement.

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