Nova Scotia·Video

Halifax police board chair backs decision to put 2 officers on admin duty

The chair of the Halifax board of police commissioners says she has confidence in the process followed by Halifax Regional Police Chief Dan Kinsella in the case of two officers who were placed on administrative duty following the arrest of a 15-year-old boy in Bedford.

Police union sent letter to board on Feb. 24 calling chief's decisions 'inconsistent, rash, and unpredictable'

The chair of the Halifax board of police commissioners, Natalie Borden, says she has confidence in the process followed by Halifax Regional Police Chief Dan Kinsella in the case of two officers who were placed on administrative duty following the arrest of a 15-year-old boy in Bedford. 2:18

The chair of the Halifax board of police commissioners says she has confidence in the process followed by Halifax Regional Police Chief Dan Kinsella in the case of two officers who were placed on administrative duty following the arrest of a 15-year-old boy in Bedford.

The union that represents police officers, the Halifax Regional Police Association, sent an email to the board of police commissioners, the mayor and the city's CAO on Feb. 24, calling the chief's decisions "inconsistent, rash, and unpredictable."

The union took issue with the chief's decision to place the two officers on administrative duty following the arrest of the teen, who was released without charges. The union said the decision to place the officers on desk duty was made too quickly to allow for a full investigation.

Chair Natalie Borden said it's not appropriate for the board to get involved in an "operational issue," such as what happened between the teen and the two officers.

"What I would say to the community would be that, you know what, the process has been followed the way that it should be," she said. "The investigation is ongoing. And it's the results of that investigation that we certainly await that will be important."

Halifax Regional Police chief Dan Kinsella addresses the city’s board of police commissioners during a presentation on March 9, 2020. (Shaina Luck/CBC)

She said the board will then be better able to make decisions about whether it should change strategy, policy or oversight.

Kinsella said the incident in Bedford is still in the process of being reviewed.

"The vast majority of interactions between members of the Halifax Regional Police and the public are carried out in a professional and committed manner, and using the appropriate de-escalation techniques and the appropriate communication," he said. "Every instance is different. I'm constantly reviewing all situations."

El Jones, an activist who has been critical of police decisions in the past, interpreted the union's comments as seeking less accountability for officers.

Dean Stienburg is the president of the Halifax Regional Police Association. He has criticized Kinsella's decision to put two officers on administrative duty. (Shaina Luck/CBC)

"What they're complaining about is that these officers were put on administrative leave," she said. "So not suspended, not removed from the job. Simply not in uniform at this point. And this is the reaction we see to even that small amount of accountability for officers, or that small move to protect community members from these officers."

"So I think it's very concerning. It shows you something embedded in police culture, I think."

The encounter between the 15-year-old and the two officers was caught on video and is the subject of a SIRT investigation. The police watchdog investigates when a serious injury results from the actions of a police officer.

The boy's family has said he suffered hand and facial injuries, as well as a concussion. They believe the teen, who is black, was being racially profiled.

Members of the black community have pointed to that case and the case of a black mother arrested at a Halifax Walmart as evidence of police brutality.

Jones said she thinks the union's comments show rank and file officers are not interested in any political processes that might attempt to change a damaged relationship between the black community and the police.

She also does not have confidence in the oversight role of the board, and feels it is not strong enough.

El Jones addressed the board of police commissioners in January during a presentation about budget funding. (CBC)

"[Police] are people that are empowered to use force against us. That is a serious responsibility. That is something we should all take very seriously, and you don't have to be black to take that seriously," she said.

"These people carry guns. They can arrest us. They can take our freedom. They have every power over us. That means we should have the strongest oversight possible, to make sure that those decisions are being made responsibly and that every time a decision to use force is being made, there's some accountability there. And I just don't see that happening."

It's unclear how long the SIRT investigation or the police's own investigation into the incident will take.

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Shaina Luck

Reporter

Shaina Luck covers everything from court to city council. Her favourite stories are about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. Email: shaina.luck@cbc.ca