Halifax/Kjipuktuk (July 9, 2020) – The Halifax Board of Police Commissioners is set to meet online today, in the midst of sustained local and national calls for the defunding and abolishing of police institutions. Abolish the Police – Halifax/Kjipuktuk is raising concern about a lack of meaningful action in the midst of ongoing police violence.
The Board’s agenda includes an update on the HRM Wortley Report, which found that Black people in Halifax are at least six times more likely to be street checked by police than white people.
“Since the Wortley Report was issued over one year ago, street checks have not stopped and police violence against Black people has not abated. Police have continued to engage in violent attacks against Black people, including mother Santina Rao and then 15-year old boy Demario Chambers. We’ve also seen an increase in surveillance and racial profiling of Black people during the pandemic, including a documented incident at Victoria Park,” said the group Abolish the Police – Halifax/Kjipuktuk.
The Board is also set to discuss a motion requesting a feasibility report for a “body worn video pilot program”.
“Body-worn cameras are not the answer to the issues of police brutality and impunity. They’re expensive and can easily be turned off by police. They don’t stop police violence. The officers who killed George Floyd were wearing body cams. Instead of more funding going towards policing, we need to be defunding the police, with the aim of abolishing this racist institution, and redirecting those funds to community services. Body cams are simply a distraction, a red herring,” said the group Abolish the Police – Halifax/Kjipuktuk.
On the question of body-worn cameras, the Nova Scotia Policing Policy Working Group has also noted that “there is very little evidence to support their use.”
The Board’s meeting is also set to include a presentation on Defunding the Police from the Office of Public Safety. Abolish the Police-Halifax/Kjipuktuk had this to say on that point:
“It’s clear that the Board is feeling the heat. They want to make it seem like they’re listening to calls being made by community members to defund the police. But, if they truly wanted to hear from us, why have they stalled on meeting until now and barred public input into the meeting?”
The Board is being criticized for adding to the agenda a last-minute motion on “defunding the police,” which makes no mention of reducing the police budget.
“This motion is an effort to coopt the language of police abolition movement in order to uphold the status quo. Defunding, which entails removing resources from policing, is meant to be a step towards abolishing the police. This motion represents neither,” said Abolish the Police – Halifax/K’jipuktuk.
Community members are being urged to call the Mayor and Councillors on the Board of Police Commissioners to speak out against this motion.
Last month, in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, the majority of the Minneapolis’ city council voted to disband the police department.
This week, all charges against Santina Rao were dropped. At a press conference on Tuesday, she announced a Police Act complaint and forthcoming action against HRM and Walmart for her treatment.