Halifax police commissioners want police plans on street checks

The Halifax Board of Police Commissioners has asked city police and the RCMP to submit plans on street checks, including the possible collection of race-based data during police stops.

In a motion passed on Monday, the board said a decision on racial statistics is "a priority for addressing the overrepresentation of black people in the street check data."

The board's request follows a report by criminologist Scot Wortley that found black people were six times more likely to be street checked by police than white people.

Wortley issued his government-commissioned report in March and the province issued a moratorium on street checks the following month.


The practice of streets checks is currently under separate reviews by the provincial Department of Justice and retired Nova Scotia judge Michael MacDonald.

Halifax police Chief Dan Kinsella said in the meantime, his force can't act until government decides whether to ban street checks.

"If they're [deemed] legal and the DOJ is going to apply some regulation, then we'll work with that," Kinsella told reporters at the police commission meeting on Monday.

"If the chief justice comes back and says they're illegal, and recommends a ban, then we'll have to work with that."

Many in Nova Scotia's black community have called for street checks to be banned and a coalition has gathered a 3,000-name petition to that effect.

But law-enforcement figures, including Justice Minister Mark Furey, have said that police investigations can be helped when officers take notes on their interactions with individuals.

The Wortley report outlined 76 recommendations for changes to police practices. One of them calls for collecting racial information on all police stops. Wortley has said a total ban on street checks "will not necessarily change the frequency of police stops or how civilians experience policing in public settings."

Data Purge

While Halifax police say they'll wait before deciding how to proceed on street checks, they reiterated that existing data on the police interactions and observations will be purged by December 2020.

Kinsella reiterated an announcement by Halifax police in July that citizens will be able to make access-to-information requests to find out if their names are in the street checks database.