Halifax police chief to apologize to black citizens for racial bias in policing
Published Monday, October 21, 2019 3:35PM ADT Last Updated Monday, October 21, 2019 7:46PM ADT
Halifax's police force will formally apologize to Nova Scotia's black community for a long history of racial bias in policing and the use of street checks in recent years, the city's chief of police announced Monday.
Chief Daniel Kinsella told the city's board of police commissioners that street checks have increased mistrust in his force that has been building over the past two centuries.
"Today, I can confirm a formal apology will be forthcoming," Kinsella told the civilian oversight body.
"It is clear to me that generations of inequity involving members of the community have had a negative impact on the relationship. Recent issues involving street checks have deepened the divide."
The pledge came just days after retired chief justice of Nova Scotia Michael MacDonald released a 108-page legal analysis concluding the practice is illegal.
Within hours of the report's release on Friday, the province's attorney general Mark Furey announced a permanent, provincewide ban.
Kinsella said he's been thinking about a formal apology to the black community since prior to his appointment to the post in July, and Friday's events were the final steps leading to his decision.
"The dynamics of the apology will come forward in the next few weeks," he said Monday, adding it's likely to happen late next month.
MacDonald's report defined street checks as stopping citizens without specific reasons and asking for personal information, then keeping those records.
The retired jurist's analysis concluded the practice contravenes citizens' basic constitutional and common law rights.
In coming to his conclusion, the veteran jurist referred to findings by criminologist Scot Wortley that showed black people were five times more likely to be stopped by police in Halifax.
He also noted that Wortley's report "did not identify any concrete benefits to street checks."
After the Wortley report came out in March, Furey imposed a temporary moratorium.
However, some members of the black community say that they continue to be stopped and questioned by police in inappropriate ways.
Trayvone Clayton, a young black man who has advocated for a ban on street checks, said after the commissioners' meeting that there is still a long road ahead to reduce distrust of the police.
"Stuff still happens. It's banned ... (but) how do we know it's true?"
Kinsella said he realizes it will take time to tackle the issue of racial bias in the force.
"Trust takes a lifetime to earn and it can be lost in a moment," he said.
"I need to ensure the officers are properly educated and trained -- and if there are instances where community members have been improperly, unfairly or illegally treated, the chief needs to know."
Investigators can use a number of legitimate, alternative methods to collect information, Kinsella noted, such as stopping a driver for suspected speeding or other motor vehicle violations.
"The random stopping of any individual based on any identification characteristic is not permissible and will not be tolerated," he said.
The chief also said his office is doing further consultation on what to do with the street check information collected in the past.
The police had planned to erase the data in December 2020, allowing time for citizens to apply under the freedom of information act for copies of their files.
However, Kinsella said he's re-examining that plan in light of some community input that it may assist to keep the information and learn from it in order to correct errors in policing practice.
"If the decision is that's it's best to hang on to the information for learning and education in the future, we'll certainly do that," he said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 21, 2019.