August 25, 2022

MCC Day 61 – Halifax Regional Police Chief Dan Kinsella

The Mass Casualty Commission heard today from Halifax Regional Police Chief Dan Kinsella today. Chief Kinsella was brought in to discuss the HRP role in the events of April 18-19, 2020, as well as the structure of policing in Nova Scotia. HRP and the RCMP each cover different areas of Halifax Regional Municipality, and so confront issues of interoperability on a regular basis.

There are two things I would like to note before getting to the substance of Chief Kinsella’s testimony. First, it appears that I was far from the only person curious as to why Commissioner Brenda Lucki and the other RCMP officers who have testified at the MCC have not been wearing their uniforms. The reason the officers are testifying in civilian clothing is as a result of a request from the MCC to do so, so as to avoid triggering anyone watching the proceedings who might be sensitive to the uniform as a result of the killer’s employment of it in his rampage. Chief Kinsella was also not wearing a police uniform, presumably for the same reason.

The second issue is the point I raised yesterday about Commissioner Michael MacDonald’s comment to Commissioner Lucki at the end of her testimony where he urged her to be a champion of the MCC’s forthcoming recommendations. I said that this seemed to be a sign that the MCC was not going to recommend the removal of the RCMP as a police force in Nova Scotia in favour of another model. It has been pointed out to me, and I agree, that it could also be interpreted as a call for her to support a transition to another model of policing if that were to be recommended.

In either case, Commissioner Lucki has committed to supporting and acting on the recommendations.

Chief Kinsella testified that the HRP was ready to assist the RCMP as events unfolded, and gave evidence about the relationship between HRP and the RCMP more generally. On the events of the mass casualty, Chief Kinsella noted that HRP did everything that was asked of them, and was ready for Wortman had he made it to their jurisdiction.

On the issue of the emergency alert, Chief Kinsella noted that the HRP was aware of the Alert Ready system. Though they have never had to use it in reaction to an active shooter situation, that is only because no incidents have reached a level where that would have been required. He said that an emergency alert should have been considered by the RCMP much earlier, and that if Wortman had entered HRP territory, they likely would have had one issued. Certainly, he said, if EMO had asked whether they wanted one issued (as they did with the RCMP), he would have said yes.

Asked about the RCMP being removed as an executive member of the NS Association of Chiefs of Police, Kinsella said it was unfortunate, but that many municipal Chiefs felt it was needed. He testified that the RCMP stopped showing up to meetings and committee meetings thereafter, but that this has not created operational or safety issues.

Chief Kinsella was also asked about the criminal intelligence bulletin from 2011 (well before he was brought to NS to be HRP Chief) which originated with an HRP officer and was passed to the RCMP in Colchester. The bulletin related to Gabriel Wortman threatening that he wanted to kill a police officer. Kinsella said his expectation would be for such a serious bulletin to be actioned immediately, and not filed away for later analysis.

Chief Kinsella was asked big picture questions about how the RCMP and HRP work together, and whether he sees the need for changes in the structure of policing in NS. He seemed very receptive to the idea that there be a provincial police force, potentially with regional hubs. Kinsella did not put it this way, but the regional hub model is certainly used in such things as economic development and health care delivery, among other services, and seems promising as a potential way of addressing the current difficulties.

One example of how the existing model is unusual is with respect to accountability in Halifax. There is an oversight mechanism involving a Board of Police Commissioners, to whom both Chief Kinsella and the RCMP Chief Superintendent report. The difference is that Chief Kinsella can be directed from the Board, while the RCMP simply reports in an advisory capacity. Chief Kinsella also reports to the Halifax Regional Municipality CAO. The RCMP receives their true oversight from Ottawa.

It was an interesting afternoon with Chief Kinsella. While he was respectful, he did not seem inclined to soft-peddle his answers when it came to the RCMP. He spoke at length about interoperability matters, but also said that none of these were issues that affected the police response to the events of April 18-19, 2020.

The MCC is back on next week, when indications from participants (there has not been an update from the MCC) are that there will be a series of “round table” discussions on possible recommendations.