In the wake of George Floyd's death, Halifax council cancels plans to buy armoured vehicle
Council votes to nix $368K purchase and instead spend money on diversity office, anti-racism programs
Halifax regional council has reversed course on the purchase of an armoured vehicle for the city's police force.
Councillors decided in 2019 to go ahead with the purchase and the vehicle was on order at a cost of $368,000.
But after getting legal advice behind closed doors, regional council voted Tuesday to cancel the order.
"I support this 100 per cent for many reasons," said Coun. Lindell Smith. "It is not business as usual."
Mayor Mike Savage kicked off the debate on Tuesday with a statement on anti-Black racism.
"Body police cameras and the purchase of an armoured police vehicle need to be fully considered and reconsidered," said Savage. "Are they needed, will they help or harm?"
Councillors were swamped with hundreds of emails after the death of George Floyd, asking for both the cancellation of the armoured vehicle and the defunding of the police budget.
Floyd was killed after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes during an arrest, sparking international protests over police brutality against Black people.
Several councillors who originally voted in favour of purchasing the armoured vehicle for Halifax Regional Police said they changed their minds because "the world has changed."
"This is an important message that we can send," said Coun. Steve Streatch.
"I am taking a knee on this one," said Coun. David Hendsbee.
Only Coun. Steve Adams voted against the motion. But even Adams agreed with Coun. Shawn Cleary's proposal to reallocate the money that would have been spent on the armoured vehicle to the city's diversity and inclusion office, the public safety office and anti-Black racism programs.
"We can create our systems so they're more inclusive and not exclusive," said Cleary.
Significant changes are also being planned for future police budgets. Deputy Mayor Lisa Blackburn said she will be looking for progress on the recommendations from a 2019 report on street checks by criminologist Scot Wortley.
"Linking police funding to successful Wortley Report actions is one thing I can do and that I am prepared to do," said Blackburn.
Coun. Waye Mason said a motion to look into other ways of restructuring police funding, including having unarmed responders deal with mental health calls, would be made at the next council meeting.