No apology: Sorry seems to be the hardest word in Halifax street check conversation – TheChronicleHerald.ca

No apology: Sorry seems to be the hardest word in Halifax street check conversation - TheChronicleHerald.ca
Halifax police, RCMP say they wont offer formal apology for street checks
A formal police apology for street checks isn't in the offing for Halifax's black community, despite a request from the city's civilian police oversight body.

Both Halifax Regional Police and the RCMP have confirmed in written responses they won't be taking the step "at this time."

“The answer to that is to some extent you have to separate the notion of a street check from the notion of discriminatory conduct. If the street check is conducted and the basis for that street check is any one of the prohibited grounds under the Human Rights Act, then it’s illegal. That much is clear. I can’t imagine anyone getting a legal opinion that would disagree with that.

Halifax cops, RCMP, wont issue apology over N.S. African street checks

The Halifax Board of Police Commissioners had asked the two forces to prepare a joint statement formally apologizing for the policy at its last meeting on April 15.

What the heck is a street check? We explain

"Both police services have indicated not at this time, and I respect that," board chair Steve Craig said Monday.

"I think it's an improvement over not at all. I think they need some time to think about it and certainly the police commission will encourage them to give it all the consideration that it does deserve and hopefully we will have an apology at some point."

The police board had also asked the two services to suspend street checks — in which pedestrians or drivers are stopped without cause and asked for identification and other information — but a wider moratorium was imposed within days by the provincial government.

“I just worry that an opinion would trump the several different community engagements and several different community evaluations that were conducted with the report. You have a report that shows explicitly the biases of this policy.”

The requests followed the release of a report by University of Toronto criminology professor Scot Wortley, who found black people in the Halifax area were six times more likely to be stopped by police. The street checks were found to have had a "disproportionate and negative" impact on the black community.

“While community members generally defined street checks as being stopped, questioned and sometimes searched by police, all police participants defined street checks as a specific intelligence tool,” Wortley concluded.

But in letters posted on the municipality's website ahead of Monday's board meeting, both forces said they woudn't be taking the formal step.

Police gather information on suspects and persons of interest with an expectation that officers add names and vehicle information to the database of persons who are suspected of being involved in crime or associated to criminals.

RCMP Insp. Robert Doyle said while he appreciates the sentiments in the board's request, an apology "would appear disingenuous at this time" and would "disrupt efforts to create lasting change."

"The Wortley report … has shone a brighter light on the need for improved trust and accountability in policing. We are taking action as a result of the Wortley report, but these actions have and will extend beyond street checks as do trust and accountability."

Ward said as a legal voice for the municipality, his view of the legality of street checks is consistent with the findings of Justice Michael Tulloch in his Ontario report on street checks in 2018.

Acting Halifax police chief Robin McNeil wrote that issues related to organizational apologies are "very complex and sensitive."

“It’s taken about a year to do a (Wortley) report to figure out the impact of street checks and now we are going to ask for a legal opinion,” Beals said incredulously.

He added the street check data presents only a partial portrait of the situation, because traffic stops, police complaints and the treatment of people during these interactions were not included.

Scot Wortley, the Toronto criminologist who in March delivered a lengthy report on police street checks in Halifax, had this to say about the definition of street checks.

"Our focus is to work collaboratively with our staff, the various community representatives, the Board of Police Commissioners and the Department of Justice on what action we need to take regarding the Wortley recommendations," McNeil said.

Martin Ward, legal counsel for the Halifax Regional Municipality, told the commission meeting that an independent legal opinion would not negate Wortley’s work.

"This will not be addressed overnight and we recognize that as a police service we have a significant role in supporting the community in making this better."

The Halifax police commission passed a motion Monday to recommend that the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission seek an independent legal opinion about street checks.

Supt. Jim Perrin told reporters the Halifax regional force remains open to considering a future apology. He added the move hasn't been ruled out by incoming chief Dan Kinsella, who will take over July 1.

"Certainly right now our commitment is to continue to work with communities and the other stakeholders including our officers, and move forward with this issue," Perrin said. "What's important now is our ongoing commitment to improve as an organization."

The person who did not want to be identified said that the vast majority of street checks are entered without the knowledge of the individual checked.

Doyle didn't speak following the meeting, but he told the board of commissioners the RCMP is doing "whatever we can" to improve relationships with the province's black community and other minority groups.

There is a province-wide moratorium on street checks but what exactly is a street check and which side of the legal boundary does a street check fall?

Board member Lindell Smith said police had an opportunity to give the black community a signal that there is an understanding of the hurt and trauma the street check policy has inflicted.

Wortley’s report found that black people were almost six times more likely to be street checked in Halifax than white people.

"There wasn't a hard no, so being the optimist I hope in the future we do see some true ownership," said Smith, who is the only black member of Halifax regional council.

Carlos Beals, a member of the commission and a lifelong resident of Dartmouth North, was the lone dissenting voice on the motion.

The board also passed a resolution Monday asking the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission to seek an opinion on the legality of street checks.

Last month, Nova Scotia Justice Minister Mark Furey ordered a provincewide moratorium on police street checks, saying it was the best remedy for damage done to relations between the black community and peace officers.

HALIFAX — A formal police apology for street checks isnt in the immediate offing for Halifaxs black community, despite a request from the citys civilian police oversight body.

Both Halifax Regional Police and the RCMP have confirmed in written responses they wont be taking the step "at this time."

The Halifax Board of Police Commissioners had asked the two forces to prepare a joint statement formally apologizing for the policy at its last meeting on April 15.

"Both police services have indicated not at this time, and I respect that," board chair Steve Craig said Monday.

"I think its an improvement over not at all. I think they need some time to think about it and certainly the police commission will encourage them to give it all the consideration that it does deserve and hopefully we will have an apology at some point."

The police board had also asked the two services to suspend street checks — in which pedestrians or drivers are stopped without cause and asked for identification and other information — but a wider moratorium was imposed within days by the provincial government.

The requests followed the release of a report by University of Toronto criminology professor Scot Wortley, who found African Nova Scotians in the Halifax area were more than five times more likely to be stopped by police. The street checks were found to have had a "disproportionate and negative" impact on the black community.

But in letters posted on the municipalitys website ahead of Mondays board meeting, both forces said they woudnt be taking the formal step.

RCMP Insp. Robert Doyle said while he appreciates the sentiments in the boards request, an apology "would appear disingenuous at this time" and would "disrupt efforts to create lasting change."

"The Wortley report … has shone a brighter light on the need for improved trust and accountability in policing. We are taking action as a result of the Wortley report, but these actions have and will extend beyond street checks as do trust and accountability."

Acting Halifax police chief Robin McNeil wrote that issues related to organizational apologies are "very complex and sensitive." He added the street check data presents only a partial portrait of the situation, because traffic stops, police complaints and the treatment of people during these interactions were not included.

"Our focus is to work collaboratively with our staff, the various community representatives, the Board of Police Commissioners and the Department of Justice on what action we need to take regarding the Wortley recommendations," McNeil said. "This will not be addressed overnight and we recognize that as a police service we have a significant role in supporting the community in making this better."

Supt. Jim Perrin told reporters the Halifax regional force remains open to considering a future apology. He added the move hasnt been ruled out by incoming chief Dan Kinsella, who will take over July 1.

"Certainly right now our commitment is to continue to work with communities and the other stakeholders including our officers, and move forward with this issue," Perrin said. "Whats important now is our ongoing commitment to improve as an organization."

Doyle didnt speak following the meeting, but he told the board of commissioners the RCMP is doing "whatever we can" to improve relationships with the provinces African Nova Scotian community and other minority groups.

Board member Lindell Smith said police had an opportunity to give the black community a signal that there is an understanding of the hurt and trauma the street check policy has inflicted.

"There wasnt a hard no, so being the optimist I hope in the future we do see some true ownership," said Smith, who is the only African Nova Scotian member of Halifax Regional Council.

The board also passed a resolution Monday asking the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission to seek an opinion on the legality of street checks.

Last month, Nova Scotia Justice Minister Mark Furey ordered a provincewide moratorium on police street checks, saying it was the best remedy for damage done to relations between the black community and peace officers.

A report found black people are six times more likely than white people to be stopped by police in Halifax.