Monday, 6 Apr 2020

There will be no apologies from Halifax police, RCMP over street checks

Halifax’s two police forces say they will not “formally apologize” to the African Nova Scotian community over the policy of street checks, rejecting a request from the civilian body in charge of police oversight in the municipality.

Halifax’s Board of Police commissioner had requested that Halifax Regional Police (HRP) and Halifax District RCMP suspend street checks and “formally recognize that the practices of police checks has disproportionally affected the African Nova Scotian community” during their meeting on April 15, 2019.

It was the first meeting of the board since the release of a damning independent report by Scot Wortley, a criminology professor at the University of Toronto, that found black males were nine times more likely to be stopped by police than the general population.

Although the province’s justice minister has formally instituted a moratorium on street checks both police organizations are declining the request to apologize.

Both forces’ letters, which are set to be discussed at the next meeting of the Board of Police Commissioners on Monday, have been posted on the municipality’s website.

Insp. Robert Doyle, acting officer in charge of the local RCMP detachment, writes that he appreciates he believes the report helped to shine a “brighter light” on the need for improved trust between police and the greater Halifax community.

And although he appreciates the sentiments “behind issuing an apology,” Doyle says it would “appear disingenuous at this time.”

“[An apology would] disrupt efforts to create lasting change, which will bring us close to improving trust and accountability,” writes Doyle.

Robin McNeil, the acting chief of police for the HRP, writes in his own letter that he will not issue an apology at this time.

“I do not minimize the thought that the Board put forward in this motion, but it is important to recognize that issues related to organizational apologies are very complex and sensitive,” McNeil writes.

McNeil, says that the issue of “over-representation of racialized communities” in street-check data is something that the force is committed to addressing but says that traffic stops, police complaints and how people are treated during police interactions were not included in the street checks data set.

“I feel strongly that speaking exclusively to the street checks data, when the community is clearly speaking to much more, would appear disingenuous and be frustrating,” McNeil continued.

Despite rejecting a formal apology both forces say that the guidance from the Board of Police Commissioners will continue to shape their work and policies moving forward.

The Board of Police Commissioners will meet at Halifax City Hall at 12:30 p.m., on Monday.

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