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Killing of George Floyd renews calls for Halifax police to be equipped with body cameras
HALIFAX -- The behaviour of police has long been an issue for the black community in Halifax.
The new police chief recently apologized for decades of street checks that disproportionately targeted the black community.
Now, the death of a black man in Minneapolis -- which was captured on video -- has renewed calls for Halifax police to wear body cameras.
"Had there not been video evidence of George Floyd's murder, who knows what could have happened," said Erin Johnson. "It could have fallen on the side of the police like it does so often."
Floyd's death, which happened while he was under arrest, prompted Johnson to create a petition calling on Halifax police to reconsider body cameras for officers.
The petition got more than 4,000 signatures in less than 24 hours.
"Calgary has had some pretty good success with body-worn video in bringing justice, specifically in the area of racial discrimination," Johnson said. "B.C. is considering it, and I think it's time for Halifax to take that step."
Halifax Regional Police conducted a review of body-worn cameras in 2017, and determined they were not a cost-effective way to improve police practices.
“In our initial report on body cameras, we had outlined that we had not seen enough evidence of their effectiveness at the time," Halifax police said in a report on the review. "However, we will continue to monitor their potential use. It is also important to note that body cameras entail a significant financial investment and that is a decision that will require broader evaluation and support.”
CTV News requested an interview with Halifax Regional Police Chief Dan Kinsella on Monday and was told he was unavailable for comment.
However, he did send out this tweet on Monday evening:
Community advocate DeRico Symonds says he's not sure body cameras are enough.
"I'm not confident that even if something happens on video, police will still be held accountable for whatever the actions are that they did do," Symonds said.
Public apology from Halifax Regional Police
Last fall, there was a public apology from Halifax Regional Police over their use of street checks. That followed the release of a report that said black citizens were five times more likely to be street-checked than their white counterparts.
"Words matter," Symonds said. "We had an apology, but the order of events that happened after that say what?"
Symonds referenced three cases involving Halifax police officers and members of the black community.
They include a black man who was tased on Quinpool Road, Santino Rao, who was forcefully arrested in a Wal-Mart while she was shopping, and a case involving a young man in Bedford.
"Have things really changed? Have officers really been held accountable? And what does the apology really mean?" Symonds said. "It leaves me with a lot of questions."
There was a large crowd at a peaceful protest in Halifax Monday night. Organizers asked everyone to respect physical distancing. Organizers also asked the people who attended to wear a non-surgical mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Police were on hand as well and had traffic on much of Spring Garden road shut down.
"Our priority is to keep the public safe in these types of events," said Halifax Regional Police spokesman Const. John MacLeod. "We know there are supposed to be a lot of people coming to these events, we would really hope that people do continue to follow those recommendations of social distancing."
Symonds says it's time to stop talking about what needs to be done, and start doing it.
"We've had words, words, words, but we actually need action," Symonds said. "We need those people who are able to make things move, who are able to change legislation and get stuff done to do something, because people are tired, people are frustrated, and the bubbling over point is coming. We just can't continue society and life this way."