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News brief: In Halifax overall street check numbers are down but racial bias even more pronounced

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – The number of street checks by Halifax Regional Police has decreased over the last two years. That’s the good news.

In 2017 Halifax Regional Police officers performed 4675 street checks, in 2018 that number was 3358, a decrease of 28%, the CBC’s Jack Julian reports.

Now for the bad news. It appears that the decrease has mostly benefited white people.

The same CBC analysis also shows that the likelihood a member of a visible minority will be subjected to a street check has increased relative to a white person’s chance.

Data released to CBC in 2017 show that in the 11 years prior to the release Black people were 3.1 times more likely to be singled out for a police check than white people.

Over the last two years that likelihood was 4.1 times.

Prior to 2017 people identified as Arab / West Indian were 1.9 times more likely to be subjected to a street check than white people. Now that likelihood is 2.7 times.

Many areas outside the city core are policed by RCMP, but the CBC article does not report on street checks by RCMP officers.  Residents of primarily African Nova Scotian communities such as East Preston, Lucasville and Upper Hammonds Plains feel strongly that they too are disproportionately singled out for police checks and traffic stops.

The long awaited report by criminologist Scot Wortley will be released on March 27, the same CBC article tells us.

As an aside, in 2017 a broad coalition of of more than 25 African Nova Scotian organizations asked not for a lengthy study but for an immediate moratorium on the practice. However, that request was ignored.

That said, this is the first time I have seen a solid date for the report’s release.

In December the report was sufficiently complete for Wortley to provide a secret update to members of the Board of Police Commissioners.  At that time journalists were told that the report needed just a bit more work and would be released “early in 2019.”

Coincidentally, Halifax police chief Jean Michel Blais, a staunch defender of carding, will retire on March 31.

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