Halifax police officer who Tasered man has disciplinary decision overturned

Motorist Clinton Fraser on Dec. 4, 2019, after a minor traffic incident on Quinpool Road in Halifax.  (Name withheld by request - image credit)
Motorist Clinton Fraser on Dec. 4, 2019, after a minor traffic incident on Quinpool Road in Halifax. (Name withheld by request - image credit)

A Halifax Regional Police officer who Tasered a man during a 2019 arrest has had a disciplinary decision against her overturned by Nova Scotia's Police Review Board.

Const. Nicole Green was one of four officers who arrested motorist Clinton Fraser on Dec. 4, 2019, after a minor traffic incident on Quinpool Road, a major thoroughfare in Halifax

Fraser resisted arrest and Green Tasered him so he could be handcuffed. He later complained to police.

A senior officer reviewed the case and found Green's conduct violated Police Act regulations concerning use of force, abuse of authority and making an arrest without sufficient cause. She was docked eight hours of pay and sent for de-escalation training.

But the provincial police review board has found Green acted reasonably. The board cited a Supreme Court of Canada decision that set the standard for the sort of behaviour that could lead to arrest.

Shaina Luck/CBC
Shaina Luck/CBC

The decision says merely disruptive, annoying or unruly behaviour is not a breach of the peace, but Fraser's behaviour that day went well beyond that minimum standard.

"There is evidence that Mr. Fraser was physically highly non-compliant with efforts to handcuff him. It took three officers to bring him down and handcuff him, even with the application of the Taser. He is very big and appears to be very powerful," the board wrote.

"The video demonstrates resistance continuing to, and through the use of a [stun gun]. The use of force cannot be described as excessive in the circumstances."

How the incident happened

Fraser was the driver of one of three vehicles involved in the incident. His pickup truck and a Toyota Yaris were both trying to merge into one of the westbound lanes of Quinpool Road, as the curb lane was closed for construction.

Fraser testified before the board and said a delivery truck had stopped to allow him to merge onto Quinpool and the Yaris cut him off. Fraser's truck appeared to clip the mirror of the Yaris and a passenger in the car rolled down her window and pounded her fist on the hood of Fraser's truck.

Green was one of two officers in the area who stopped to investigate, before two more officers joined them.

After talking to participants and witnesses, Green determined that Fraser should receive a ticket under the Motor Vehicle Act. This made Fraser angry, and despite being told to return to his truck, he repeatedly got out of his vehicle and started arguing.

Green testified that when Fraser got out of his truck a fourth time and appeared to come toward the police officers, she decided to arrest him. She put her hand on him to handcuff him, and that's when the struggle started.

The board found the occupants of the Yaris, who were being discourteous, were part of the problem. The board said if they had simply allowed Fraser to merge, the whole confrontation could have been avoided.

Staff Sgt. Ross Burt, who investigated the complaint against Green, said in his report that Fraser's response to the officers that day was likely influenced by the fact he is Black.

Fraser had asked the arresting officers if he was being treated differently because of his race. The police board rejected that idea.

"His perception, at least in part, was and is that his treatment was racially motivated. However, there is nothing in the evidence that shows any consideration of race by the officers involved," the board wrote in its decision exonerating Green.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.