Quick now. Can you name the chair of HRM’s Board of Police Commissioners?…. No? OK… Can you at least tell me what the board does?…
Did you even know we had police commissioners?
Perhaps that’s the problem.
According to city bylaw P-100, the board—six members appointed by regional council, one by the province—is supposed to “provide civilian governance” of the force.
How well does it do that job? That’s hard to know. What is easier to say is that the board doesn’t spend a lot of time on its duties. Most of its monthly meetings this year lasted less than an hour. The board considered and approved the force’s 2009-10 budget—$72.8 million—at a meeting that lasted one hour and nine minutes. The most recent posted minutes—for its Sept. 11 meeting—show that commissioners met for 29 minutes.
This entry shows up more than once: “a copy of the HRP reports for [Month] were before the commission. As there were no questions, the board accepted the HRP reports as information.”
In February, Commissioner Gloria McCluskey did ask why a letter “addressed to the board was not brought before the board.” Chairm Russell Walker—the answer to our first question—explained the letter had actually been sent to the province and only copied to the board, so it “was then sent to Chief Beazley for follow up.”
Is there a cozy relationship between the board and the force it’s supposed to manage?
When the grandfather of Jason MacCullough—one of 48 unsolved homicide cases on the books—wrote to the justice minister last year complaining about the lack of progress in that investigation, he copied his letter to the chief and chair of the police commission. Deputy Chief Chris McNeil and Walker did come to see him, he told me, but McNeil did all the talking. “Walker didn’t say a word.”
I recently wrote an article for The Coast asking why Halifax has so many unsolved murders. In it, Tom Martin, one of Halifax’s most experienced and respective detectives, complained the force’s most senior officers lacked on-the-ground experience in criminal investigations. Another recently retired senior officer wrote a letter to the editor supporting Martin’s arguments.
Has the board of police commissioners invited either of them to meet with it to discuss their concerns? I don’t know. I emailed the board’s chair a week ago telling him I wanted to ask some questions about why Halifax has so many unsolved murders. He hasn’t gotten back to me.