Municipal police forces are bracing for changes to the New Brunswick Police Act by the government, and one of those changes has caused at least one advocacy group to cry foul.
That change aims to create a Municipal Police Assistance Fund. The fund could accept donations from private corporations and individuals.
Husoni Raymond, a representative with Black Lives Matter Fredericton, said the concern is that it will create unfairness for those who don’t have the financial means to donate. He said it will further marginalize vulnerable communities.
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“It erodes the public trust, which has already been depleted over the past couple of years, so this is something everyone should be concerned about,” he said in an interview.
He said the government should be shifting its focus to addressing community-based issues like affordable housing, homelessness and mental health.
“I think the fact this amendment is being passed without any recognition to the calls that residents have had over the past several years about defunding is a slap in the face for concerned citizens who have been sounding the alarm,” he said.
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Pressure to make amendments to the Police Act came after the four-year suspension of former Kennebecasis Regional Police Force Insp. Jeff Porter, who cost the taxpayers of Quispamsis and Rothesay more than $1 million before his retirement in 2020.
However, Bob Davidson, a labour analyst with the New Brunswick Police Association, said police donations aren’t uncommon and this part of the act would only add transparency.
“If a private entity wants to donate or give to the police force in kind or in money or whatever, it has to be well documented and transparent so that everybody understands what happened there,” Davidson said.
He said a notable example of a donation is the armoured vehicle given to the Saint John Police Force by Irving-owned Commercial Properties Limited. Rescue One, as it is named, cost more than $350,000.
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Davidson said he expects donations would be made public.
Changes to the Police Act, or Bill 53, is before the Standing Committee on Economic Policy and no date has been set for a third reading in the legislature.
However, Raymond said the fund will create conflicts of interest.
“It would beg the question about who the police will serve and who the police will protect if certain individuals and corporations with money can actually buy their way in and influence decisions that way,” he said.
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