Halifax police officers prohibited from taking service weapons home, chief says
HALIFAX -- Officers with Halifax Regional Police will no longer be able to take their service weapons home after work, following a policy change announced Thursday by Chief Dan Kinsella.
Kinsella announced the change as he met reporters for the second consecutive week to discuss charges involving members of the force.
He specifically addressed some of the details involving criminal charges against Const. Jennifer McPhee, 42, who has also been suspended with pay.
McPhee is accused in an alleged theft at a grocery store in Halifax on Sept. 13, according to court documents.
The charges against her include careless use of a firearm, carrying a concealed weapon, theft under $5,000 and disguise with intent, among other counts.
Kinsella said the policy change, which takes effect immediately, was not directly related to the incident involving the 17-year veteran of the force.
"It's part of a broader review of all the policies," he said. "This is one factor that has come forward that certainly has caused me to look a little deeper into it."
Kinsella confirmed the firearm involved in the alleged incident was a service-issued weapon, which court documents identify as a Sig Sauer 9-mm pistol.
Rules around the carriage and storage of weapons vary among police forces across the country, Kinsella said, noting the new policy in Halifax is the same one he served under with the Hamilton Police Service before starting the Halifax job in July.
"As far as I'm concerned there is no need for an officer to have their gun with them outside of regular duties. There may be special circumstances where that is required ... and I have the ability to provide special consideration in certain circumstances."
As an example, he said exceptions might be granted to officers who are on duty around the clock and who might require their weapon to be readily available.
The Canadian Press reached out to several police forces Thursday, asking about their policies on firearm storage for off-duty officers.
A spokesman for the Montreal police, Const. Manuel Couture, said the force expects its officers to abide by the provisions of the Firearms Act, which include storing weapons unloaded in a locked container.
"Under some circumstances they're authorized to take their firearms to their homes, but they have to go from Point A to Point B without stopping anywhere," said Couture.
The Vancouver Police Department provided a copy of its Regulations and Procedures Manual, which includes a section on safe storage of firearms.
"Members are reminded of the ever-present necessity of safeguarding Department issue firearms while in their homes or elsewhere in order to ensure against any of the dangers associated with them, particularly those involving children," the manual states.
According to information filed by police in court on Wednesday, the alleged theft in which McPhee is charged occurred at an Atlantic Superstore in Halifax.
The document alleges the perpetrator "did have her face masked" and that she "did store, carry, handle, ship, transport a firearm ... in a careless manner or without reasonable precaution for the safety of other persons."
Meanwhile, other court records also confirm McPhee pleaded guilty to a breathalyzer offence and received a curative discharge in 2013, meaning she had no criminal record.
"I can't speak to the circumstances or whether that may or may not be a factor is this particular case -- that'll be something that will have to come out in court," Kinsella said when asked about the prior circumstance.
Last week, Kinsella addressed the arrests of three officers, including McPhee, within the last month, saying criminal charges would be pursued in all three cases.
Det.-Const. Joseph Farrow is charged with unlawfully entering a home and sexual assault, while a third officer was arrested and released without charges after an Oct. 7 domestic incident in Eastern Passage.
Nova Scotia's police watchdog agency, the Serious Incident Response Team, is investigating both cases.
Kinsella said Thursday it won't be his regular practice to speak to individual charges or criminal matters pursued by police.
McPhee's "charges relate to one of three serious matters related to our officers that took place in quick succession," he said.
"That has caused alarm for the public and that has caused alarm for me and our entire organization."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 17, 2019.