Halifax officer calls for judicial review of 2021 police board decision

·2 min read
A Halifax Regional Police officer seeks to overturn a review board decision saying he made an unnecessary arrest in 2018.  (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press - image credit)
A Halifax Regional Police officer seeks to overturn a review board decision saying he made an unnecessary arrest in 2018. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press - image credit)

A Halifax police officer found to have escalated a conflict before making an arrest in 2018 has filed for a judicial review of the decision made by the police board.

The Nova Scotia Police Review Board ruled in June 2021 that Const. Kenneth O'Brien acted stubbornly and unnecessarily when he arrested a Black man and his wife who were in a park after hours in 2018, but the arrest was likely not motivated by race.

In a response dated Jan. 18, 2022, O'Brien's lawyer James Giacomantonio wrote that the board provided "unintelligible, incoherent and inherently unreasonable interpretations of both fact and law."

Adam LeRue and Kerry Morris had previously filed a complaint against two Halifax Regional Police officers, including O'Brien, alleging race played a role in LeRue being arrested and jailed after the couple stopped in their car in Halifax's Sir Sandford Fleming Park to make a phone call in 2018.

The police review board found that O'Brien, the first officer on the scene, repeatedly failed to exercise discretion and de-escalate the situation after he had stopped LeRue and Morris for being in the park after 10 p.m.

The report noted that such an offence would not generally even warrant a ticket, but O'Brien chose to intensify the situation when he and his fellow officer forcibly removed Morris from the car, arrested LeRue on a charge of obstruction and conducted a full search of their vehicle. The board found that O'Brien likely became angry because the couple refused to show ID.

O'Brien's counsel has argued that the police board ignored evidence of the "various efforts made by Const. O'Brien to identify Mr. LeRue without needing a physical driver's license," including an internal police database search and Facebook.

The filing also says the board's decision that O'Brien lacked a 'good or sufficient cause' to arrest Mr. LeRue and to search his vehicle was unreasonable, and that a pre-hearing decision made by the board in October 2020 incorrectly ruled that the board had jurisdiction over the case.

O'Brien is now requesting an order that prohibits further proceedings against him, saying the board lacks jurisdiction over his case under the Police Act.

Const. Brent Woodworth, who was also at the scene of the arrest but had allegations against him dismissed, filed a brief on Feb. 8, 2022, requesting the court quash the decision in respect to the findings against O'Brien.

Halifax Regional Police have also requested the decision against O'Brien be quashed.

"HRP agrees with Const. O'Brien that the Board's decision of June 18, 2021 … is unreasonable," says the police response.

Lawyers for LeRue and Morris filed a brief on March 1, 2022, saying the police board's decision was "transparent, intelligible and justified," and "reasonable."

The matter was adjourned until Dec. 6 after a hearing on Monday.

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