Nova Scotia

Halifax councillor wants review of police jobs that civilians could handle

Coun. Waye Mason wants to see what current police service functions could be handled by civilians. He plans to bring a motion to a council meeting in August that could shift a number of job done by police, including mental health emergency response teams and traffic enforcement.

'Maybe police should only be focusing on more criminal stuff,' says Coun. Waye Mason

Halifax regional councillor Waye Mason wants the municipality to review what current police functions could be handled by civilians. (Robert Short/CBC)

A Halifax regional councillor wants the municipality to look at civilian ways of providing some of the services now done by police, including traffic enforcement and mobile mental health crisis intervention teams.

Coun. Waye Mason plans to bring a motion to a council meeting in August that could shift a number of functions currently done by the police.

"Maybe it isn't police who should be responding to mental health calls, maybe police should only be focusing on more criminal stuff," Mason said.

Mason said the review would support Black, Indigenious and other racialized communities who are looking for alternatives to the current policing models.

"There are things that are in police for historical reasons that maybe don't make sense — bring back parks patrol and don't ask police to do it," Mason said.

"There's a whole bunch of things we've delegated to police, even in the last five years that was maybe a mistake and maybe we should bring those back under the civilian side."

'Definition of defunding'

The idea of defunding the police is also being explored by Halifax's police commission through a community advisory committee. 

"It's important to me that community is there to lead that definition of defunding," said Carol MacDougall, a member of the board

Details of that process were discussed behind closed doors earlier this week.   

Mason said council's review will be done separately from  the one done by the police board and could take up to two years to complete. He said the review should include, but not be limited to:

  • Potential to develop and implement civilian mobile mental health crisis intervention teams.
  • Use of special constables for traffic enforcement.
  • Preparation for use of red light and photo radar when enabled by the Traffic Safety Act in 2021.
  • Determination of what non-criminal code enforcement activities can be civilianized, including but not limited to 24/7 bylaw enforcement and park patrol.
  • Alternate reporting methods for criminal reports that are being reported for insurance purposes.
  • Delivery of non-core police programs such as youth programming and crossing guards.
  • Subject to board of police commissioners participation and agreement, examination of tiered approaches to policing utilizing conventional sworn officers, new types of police, civilians and others.
  • Providing clarity on the role of police including defining the core purpose of policing and what is and is not delivered by police agencies under board of police commissioners oversight.

With files from Pam Berman

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