Nova Scotia's police watchdog has charged a Halifax Regional Police officer with assault relating to the arrest of a Black teen outside Bedford Place Mall in February.
The 15-year-old boy recorded his Feb. 21 arrest on his mobile phone as it was happening.
His mother, Troylena Dixon, later shared photos on Facebook of hand and face injuries she said her son sustained during the incident. At the time, she said her son recorded the interaction because he believed he was being racially profiled.
The Serious Incident Response Team, also known as SIRT, said Const. Mark Pierce is scheduled to appear in Halifax provincial court on Nov. 17, 2020.
In a statement, Halifax Regional Police said it would review SIRT's report to determine its next steps.
"Following charges laid by SIRT against one of the officers involved, this incident will now be subject to the court process, and we must allow that process to take its course," police said.
"Halifax Regional Police is committed to its efforts to build trust with communities we serve. We recognize that this incident has been the subject of significant public interest, and in every instance, it is important to let due process unfold."
'We don't live in a police state'
The boy's lawyer, Gordon Allen, said his client and a friend had been at Sunnyside Mall across the street from Bedford Place Mall on the night of the arrest. Allen said the two friends were asked to leave Sunnyside Mall, which they did.
Allen said the boy was on the phone with his mother at Bedford Place Mall when he was approached by police about Sunnyside Mall.
"[The boy] didn't wish to engage them, he was talking to his mother [on the phone] and one officer went around and held up handcuffs and said words to the effect of, 'One day you're going to be in these,' or something like that, which upset [the boy] and he went outside," Allen said.
"The police officer turned around and told him to get inside or he would be arrested or words to that effect, and of course, a member of the public is allowed to be outside on the sidewalk outside a mall. We don't live in a police state."
It was around this time the 23-second video was recorded.
Scuffle heard on video
The video begins with the boy telling the officers, "I can go inside if I want to."
When one of the officers responds, "You'll get arrested," the boys asks, "Really? For what? For speaking my mouth? For speaking?"
It's unclear what the officer says next. The two officers are then seen approaching the boy. One officer tells the boy that he's under arrest.
At that point, the video becomes shaky and turns to black.
The boy can be heard telling the officers, "Don't you touch me," to which an officer replies, "You're under arrest, don't move."
A scuffle can be heard in the video with the boy asking, "What are you doing?"
One officer repeats, "You're under arrest, stop resisting."
The boy responds, "For what? For what?"
'This can happen to anybody's child'
Allen noted no one at Bedford Place Mall requested the police to be there. He said there were no grounds for the arrest and no grounds for police to tell the boy to leave the area.
"Was there grounds for the officer to charge at someone and grab them just because they didn't like that the person didn't say, 'how high?' when the officer said jump ... that's what it sort of appeared like to us," Allen said.
Allen said the boy's mother has filed a complaint against police that is separate from the SIRT investigation and said she is also contemplating civil action against police.
As for the boy, Allen said he was shaken in the days and weeks following the arrest and was ridiculed at school.
"It has been difficult for him but he's a strong young [person] and he wanted to make a stand on this because he realizes it was wrong. People have to realize this can happen to anybody's child, anybody's son, anybody's daughter," he said.
Halifax Regional Police Association responds
The Halifax Regional Police Association said it was disappointed in SIRT's decision to charge the officer.
"We believe he acted in accordance with his training," the association said in a statement.
"Like anyone charged with a criminal offence, the officer is presumed innocent until proven guilty and we trust that his matter will be judged fairly in court."
The association said it would be following the case with "great interest and supporting our member through the court process."
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.
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