Nova Scotia

Building public trust will be key issue for new Halifax police chief

Dan Kinsella, Halifax's new police chief, has vowed to find a way to improve public trust in the force and to come up with a way to deal with the contentious issue of random street checks.

'This is the opportunity of a lifetime for me,' says Dan Kinsella

New Halifax Police Chief Dan Kinsella knows some people are distrustful of the police officers he now commands. (Brett Ruskin/CBC)

Dan Kinsella knows some people are distrustful of the police officers he now commands. He knows they want an end to random street checks.

But the new chief of Halifax Regional Police doesn't have an instant solution to either issue. 

With that in mind, the 54-year-old father of two grown daughters is planning to spend his first weeks on the job meeting with residents and community leaders. 

"I'm going to get out in the community and I need to hear first hand, from the community members," Kinsella told reporters minutes after a swearing-in ceremony at the Halifax Convention Centre on Friday.

The former Hamilton deputy chief believes face-to-face meetings are the best way to get to know his new home, and the people he swore an oath to protect.

'I'm going to be learning lots'

"I'm going to be learning lots," he said. "I'm hoping I can contribute lots to the community."

Among the three top priorities Kinsella has set for himself is "working on public trust."

"The community needs to have trust and confidence in their police chief and their police service," he said. "It takes a lifetime to earn that trust and we can lose trust in a second.

"I know there has been some been some inequalities and some negative interactions. I'm going to work on that with the community."

A report on racial profiling by Halifax-area police, released last March, found black people were subjected to random street checks at a rate six times higher than white people in Halifax.

The report by Scot Wortley, a University of Toronto criminology professor, also found that police in the Halifax region do more random street checks than police in Montreal, Vancouver or Ottawa. 

That has led to repeated calls for a ban on the practice, as well as an apology from the force. But Halifax police have not apologized.

The provincial government has placed a moratorium on random street checks rather than outlawing them.

Dan Kinsella isn't passing judgment on random street checks, nor is he ready to apologize. (Brett Ruskin/CBC)

Kinsella isn't passing judgment on street checks, nor is he ready to apologize.

Will say more once community is consulted

"Any intelligence gathering that helps us work on criminal activity or solve crimes has value," he said.

"But what I can tell you is, that the random stopping of any individual based on their race, the colour of their skin, their ethnicity, their religion, their sexual orientation, their gender expression is inappropriate and will not be tolerated in the Halifax Regional Municipality."

He is promising to have more to say once he's talked to community members about the issue.

"Once I get that information and I'm fully informed we're going to set a plan together and we're going to work on it together to see the best way forward."

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