Halifax’s Board of Police Commissioners wants 10 years worth of internal audits from the police department released to the public, mostly so they don’t have to read any more embarrassing reports about themselves in the press.
At a special meeting held Thursday afternoon, the board listened to HRP chief Jean-Michel Blais, deputy chief Bill Moore and Criminal Investigation Division superintendent Jim Perrin try to explain away the results of a damning internal audit that found reams of lost drugs, cash and other evidence missing from inside police headquarters.
The department maintain the exhibits are actually misplaced—a result of clerical errors when officers input paperwork. But some board members were more concerned about how the audit came to light through a Freedom of Information request, and not from the chief of police.
“I’m not sure I should be finding these things out because of a FOIPOP request,” commissioner Jeff Mitchell said to Blais. “I wonder if there needs to be a process that includes more than just your internal discussions.”
The municipality’s Board of Police Commissioners held the hastily assembled meeting in response to last week’s cover story investigation by The Coast.
Virtually all of the information received by this paper and published on June 23 was assembled last fall, but chief Blais told the board that the audit wasn’t completely finalized until June 21.
That allowed time for a secondary search of evidence vaults which dropped the original percentages of missing items down from nearly 90 percent for drugs exhibits in CID and 55 percent for seized cash to just over half of the drugs and about a third of the money still unaccounted for. The cops have a four-person team conducting another search of their vaults to try and bring the missing exhibits in the audit sample down to zero.
Deputy chief Bill Moore originally told this paper last fall the audit would not likely ever be released to the public unless specifically asked for, nor presented to the board unless the results showed something important. In his interview with me last week, superintendent Perrin clarified what separated a “finalized” report from a “draft” copy.
“I guess it’s a draft until the chief says he’s happy with the product and calls it a final report,” said Perrin.
Despite there being a Board of Police Commissioners meeting last Monday, the department only informed board chair, Russell Walker about the audit’s findings on Wednesday of last week. It was released publicly hours after The Coast’s story was published on Thursday. That didn’t sit well with some of the commissioners.
“I think we’ve got a long way to go to get a very good sense of how we do our job,” said councillor Steve Craig. “The media’s another oversight body, and they’re here in spades today, however we’re the formal oversight body.”
But it’s not clear what, if anything, telling the board earlier would have accomplished.
“Nothing,” said Walker after the meeting. “But we'd have been at least informed there was an audit going and been in the loop...It's the perception of oversight and direction.”
Blais told reporters that “in the future,” the board of police commissioners will “get more information in a more timely manner.”
Before adjourning, the board passed a motion for all reports and audits from HRP over the last 10 years to be presented at future meetings. Provided there are no legal issues—and Walker doesn’t think there will be—those audits will be published as information items on HRM's website for the public to read.