Halifax cancels purchase of pricey armoured vehicle amid calls to defund police
HALIFAX -- Many communities are talking about defunding police departments -- or at least changing the way they're funded -- to combat racism and better reflect diversity.
On Tuesday, Halifax became one of the first communities to redirect police funding as regional council voted to cancel the purchase of a police armoured vehicle.
After Halifax Regional Council made changes to the Halifax Regional Police budget, Mayor Mike Savage said during the debate any changes to police budgets should not construed in any way as being an anti-police vote.
"It is a vote recognizing that we need to step up and there has to be a stronger relationship between populations like the African Nova Scotian populations and the police and the people they elect to represent them," said Savage.
The major change -- council voted against funding for an armoured vehicle.
Savage says cancelling the vehicle will not cause any financial penalty.
Halifax Regional Council will reallocate that money for the municipal offices of diversity and inclusion, public safety and other work on anti-Black racism.
"This money, and if you speak to folks that are in that office who do amazing work, you know how far they can make that money go to reach the community as best as they can with the resources they have at hand," said Halifax Regional Coun. Lindell Smith.
Coun. Shawn Cleary, who brought the motion forward on Tuesday, says the decision reflects a shift in viewpoints driven in part by the public demonstrations against police racism occurring throughout North America.
His motion shifts $300,000 that would have been used for the purchase to support a variety of anti-Black racism initiatives, with another $89,500 going toward programs for diversity, inclusion and public safety.
The budget committee motion passed with the backing of all but one councillor.
Cleary first attempted to have the contract for the Halifax police refused in a motion last year opposing the militarized, tactical vehicle with a rotating roof hatch, eight gun ports and a powered battering ram.
The Halifax police had argued the vehicle was needed in the city because "crises happen here" and it would provide safety for officers in situation such as armed standoffs.
These changes to the police budget come as an online petition calling for body cameras for Halifax Regional Police officers has garnered more than 100,000 signatures.
"I think people are ready for a change and they're starting to pay attention," said Erin Johnson, who started the petition.
Johnson says the petition is a real-time document showing a desire by the public for change to be brought to the police force.
"I plan on bringing the petition to the HRM this week," she said.
Johnson also says funding should not fall solely on the HRM.
She's calling on other levels of government to support the implementation of body cameras.
Body cameras for police were not part of Tuesday's regional council budget debate.
That issue and the funding that goes with it will be discussed at a future council session.
With files from The Canadian Press.