Human rights body and police commission to study street checks, racial profiling

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The Nova Scotia Human Commission will work with Halifax's Board of Police Commissioners on the issue of street checks and racial profiling.

Members of the black community raised concerns with the human rights commission, but the CEO of the body decided a formal inquiry was not the best way to handle the situation.

"This did not warrant an adversarial approach," said Christine Hanson. "In my meetings with HRM they would like to know what the answers are as well."

'People draw their conclusions'

In January, a CBC News investigation found that black people were three times as likely to be street checked by police as white individuals.

Halifax's police chief has said street checks are used with individuals doing suspicious activity. Most involve an interaction between an officer and an individual or group. Details such as age, gender, location, reason and ethnicity are recorded.

The data came from a freedom of information request and spanned 11 years, but municipal officials aren't ready to say if the statistics indicate that racial profiling is taking place.

"People draw their conclusions as to what the data says," said Coun. Steve Craig, chair of Halifax's police commission. "We want to find out what is and what is not so we can focus on the right things."

Third party to review data

The Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission has agreed to hire an independent third party to review the data.

After work is complete, both the police commission and the human rights group will work with members of the black community to figure out the next steps.

"If there is an issue then we can talk about what we need to do, is there an education piece needed?" said Hanson.

Diversity committee

The police commission is already working on creating a new diversity advisory committee made up of community leaders. It would work with Halifax's police chief and the RCMP superintendent for the Halifax district.

The committee would replace one that was formed more a decade ago as a result of a human rights case involving boxer Kirk Johnson and the Halifax police. 

That committee met less and less over the years and was eventually disbanded.