Police open to reviewing historic cases of criminalization arising from street checks

Halifax Regional Police have committed to reviewing cases of criminalization arising from street checks that would be considered unlawful today.

It’s one of several promises of redress made at a panel discussion held Monday night, aimed at renewing relations between the African Nova Scotian community and law enforcement in the wake of a provincial street checks ban.

Halifax Regional Police Chief Dan Kinsella said the department doesn’t have the capacity to comb through the database in search of such cases, and is asking anyone who believes it happened to them to come forward with their concerns.

“If there’s instances that precipitated some sort of criminal behaviour that followed, that’s something that we’re interested in and will have to have a look at that task,” he told reporters. “It’s a very difficult task, it isn’t something that’s easy, that’s why I coupled it with my plea to the community.”

He confirmed that the department would look at the data in a general sense to see if any cases jump out, and that any complaints from the public will spur an internal investigation.

Kinsella wasn’t available on Tuesday to provide additional explanation of the commitment, but social worker Robert Wright raised some initial concerns with how it might be delivered.

“My concern would be, who is the ‘we’ that is going to review the case? The same people who were ardent supporters of street checks for the last 20 years?” Wright told Global News in an interview.

“I would have more confidence if there were some kind of review commission established for that work that included individuals who are experts, who have long held the view that street checks are illegal.”

The broad conversation last night included repeated commitments to training and education to eliminate biased and racist policing, along with provincial programming to reduce social and political inclusion barriers for African Nova Scotians.

DeRico Symonds, a community advocate, said he was encouraged by the positive message and willingness to work together, but thought there ought to be more focus on reparation for those impacted by street checks.

“I think there maybe needed to be some more discussion around how the repair to community and mental health is going to happen,” he told Global News on Tuesday. “I mean I’m satisfied, but I’m trying to look forward in terms of what’s going to happen.”

Amid some calls at the discussion for police reprimand, Wright agreed that the focus needs to be on the community.

“If that has resulted in their criminalization and marginalization, we should probably look at those folks and say, ‘What do we need to do to make things right with them?’” he said.

“So I’m less concerned about penalizing police officers than I am about repairing the harms that have been done to black folk.”

If anyone were to face consequences for illegal street checks conducted in years past, he added, it ought to be a figure in power or authority, rather than beat cops carrying out what was considered “standard practice” at the time.

Accessing your personal street check record

Kinsella confirmed on Monday that the ability to enter new street checks data into the police database has been disabled, and that the identities of anyone in the system will be scrubbed in December 2020.

Anyone wishing to access their personal records can do so using freedom of information legislation. A form, and instruction on how to file a freedom of information request can be found online here. There is no application fee on a request for personal records, and forms can be submitted by mail or in person at police headquarters on Gottingen Street.

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