Halifax council gives OK for controversial $500K armoured police vehicle

A Halifax councillor tried, and failed, on Tuesday to cut $500,000 of funding for an armoured police vehicle.

“It would be shocking to me to allow the militarization of our police in Halifax,” said Coun. Shawn Cleary.

Police officials presented details of the project to the Halifax police commission on Monday.

Coun. Lorelei Nicoll said there was an immediate backlash when the public learned of the idea.

“It took everyone’s breath away,” she said. “It was traumatizing to people to see a vehicle like that having to be used in today’s society.”

Coun. Tony Mancini, who sits on the commission, acknowledged the poor timing of the proposal.

“We’re dealing with the very delicate and important subject of street checks and repairing damage in our communities,” he said. “And all of a sudden in the same breath, we’re having conversations about what looks like a military vehicle.”

A Halifax Regional Police official insisted the armoured vehicle would be used in serious incidents to rescue victims and keep police officers safe. Supt. Jim Perrin also told council the military look of the vehicle could be toned down.

“We will try to make it look less aggressive, as much like a day-to-day police vehicle as possible with light bars on the roof, painting and crests,” he said.

Coun. Matt Whitman wondered whether an armoured vehicle that the town of New Glasgow was trying to give away was an option. Perrin said the design of that vehicle was not suitable for what Halifax police had in mind.

Why some councillors support the purchase

Other councillors pointed to the Moncton police shooting in June 2014 and recent incidents such as a lockdown at Dartmouth High and a weapon scare at the Halifax Central Library as reasons to support the purchase.

Cleary was not convinced and called on his colleagues to cut the $500,000 set aside in the fleet budget.

“We can’t guarantee it’s not going to show up at a protest, or a high school, and those are exactly the kind of places we don’t want a military-style vehicle, ” he said.

In the end, only five councillors voted for the proposed cut, so the money for the controversial vehicle remains in the 2019-2020 budget.

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