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'They don't feel supported': Halifax police members to vote on confidence in police chief

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In what the president of the association representing hundreds of police officers and civilian employees in Halifax called “unprecedented,” Halifax police members are voting on whether they have confidence in Halifax Regional Police Chief Dan Kinsella.

In an email sent to police and civilian members Friday, and obtained by CTV News, Halifax Regional Police Association President Sgt. Dean Stienburg said its executive was given a mandate to conduct a vote of confidence on Kinsella in the fall of 2022.

“The executive does not take such action lightly, however we have come to a point in which we believe this vote is necessary,” the email said. 

Stienburg lists nearly a page of issues that led to the vote -- notably that officers are not consistently supported, and that there has been a blatant disregard for the safety of officers and a lack of resources to efficiently and effectively police the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM).

Other issues listed include what is described as insufficient planning for major events such as protests, and Dalhousie University’s homecoming party in a residential neighbourhood.

CTV News spoke with Stienburg about the emails.

“One of the biggest things the members are really concerned about is they don’t feel supported in terms of they don’t have the resources, they don’t have what they need to be able to do an effective job at policing the city and providing for public safety,” Stienburg said.

There is also concern that staffing levels are too low and so is morale.

"If it is, shows that a large percentage of the organization and members working in the organization do not have confidence I would hope that council, the CAO, the mayor's office, the board of police commissioners would take that very seriously and understand we have a crisis within the police department and a real problem," said Stienburg.

According to Stienburg’s email, the issues that led to the vote include:

  • Consistent lack of support for officers both publicly and internally.
  • Lack of resources to efficiently and effectively police the HRM.
  • Blatant disregard for the safety of officers (public announcement of the imposed firearm policy).
  • Insufficient planning for major events, protests at stats etc. (his solution to officers being swarmed on front steps was to fence senior management vehicles), encampment day, Dalhousie homecoming, Fiona
  • Blatant disregard for the collective agreement.
  • Aggressive and retaliatory behaviour/ unwarranted use of the police act process.
  • Unfair/ non-transparent selection/ promotion processes.
  • Multiple unjust suspensions/ members on suspension for inordinate periods of time.
  • Massive increase in 'on the job' injuries.
  • A disturbing lack of support for officers with occupational stress injuries, PTSD, and other workplace psychological injuries.
  • Lack of success returning injured members to work.
  • A considerable reduction in training and career opportunities for members.
  • Changing organizational priorities driven by social media.
  • Organizational chaos, few decisions made in a timely fashion, overuse of acting positions causing more shortage on frontline.
  • Interference and poor decision-making respecting the Portapique mass shooting.
  • Forbidding members to pay respect to Const. Heidi Stevenson on "wear red" day.
  • Failure to act in 2020 when it was clear a staffing crisis was looming.
  • Ineffective recruitment strategies.
  • Organizational changes that fail to address issues, improve service or working conditions - change for the sake of change.
  • Fleet vehicles in constant state of disrepair.
  • Does not have the support of city council as two of three budgets were rejected.
  • Has returned over $3.5 million in his time as chief despite shortages everywhere in the organization.

On Sunday, the chief of police emailed his team, celebrating the recruitment of 28 cadets whose training program starts Monday.

Kinsella also said improving employee engagement and morale and finding ways to meaningfully connect with their teams is one of the highest priorities.

CTV News’ request for an interview with Kinsella was declined.

In a statement, Kinsella said this has been an incredibly difficult time for those in policing.

“As chief, I am very focused on putting in place the right supports for our officers and improving morale, while also responding to changing societal expectations,” he said.

Kinsella added police have prioritized recruiting, support programs and they are focusing on filling recently approved additional positions.

The vote of confidence is an anonymous process that will go until Oct. 30.

The results will be presented to the Halifax Regional Police Association membership at its Nov. 1 general meeting. Stienburg said no decision has been made yet on whether the results of the vote will be made public.

Chief Dan Kinsella’s full statement:

"This has been an incredibly difficult time for those in policing, and as Chief, I am very focused on putting in place the right supports for our officers and improving morale while also responding to changing societal expectations. Our members do very difficult work in an environment of capacity constraints and wellness concerns. In response to these challenges we have prioritized recruitment, support programs that include a member reintegration initiative, and, we are very focused on filling recently approved additional positions. We have also set up a dedicated management-union working group tasked with looking into frontline staffing and capacity issues in a more focused way. I am very attuned to the issues facing our members, and committed to the work we need to do.

As for this particular move and sharing it with media, it is best for you to speak with the union executive directly about their approach. I am steadfast in my approach to working with the union to address important issues through the appropriate processes. Unfortunately there are some people within the union leadership who have had a history of using such tactics and personal attacks that do not always contribute to the real issues or advance the interests of members. The vast majority of our members are doing exemplary work under trying circumstances. We have real work to do on issues that are facing them and our organization - and we are utilizing appropriate mechanisms in place to have discussions on these issues between the union and management. We will stay focused on that work. I have no further comment at this time."

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