KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – As part of the state of emergency declared in Nova Scotia on Sunday police have been authorized to enforce orders under the Health Protection Act.
“If Nova Scotians and businesses do not practice social distancing and self-isolation, they will face fines of $1,000 for individuals and $7,500 for businesses,” a government press release states.
Involving the police to report an individual for breaking self isolation or social distancing rules is a bad idea. This policy will jeopardize marginalized and/or racialized Nova Scotians.
Here are four reasons why we can’t leave this to the police.
First, we have been hearing about racism within the ranks of Halifax Regional Police and RCMP for a long time. There is nothing to suggest things are better in rural Nova Scotia.
As the Black community has been telling the people in charge for decades, police officers tend to disproportionately focus on Black people while doing street checks and otherwise interacting with citizens. During these interactions citizens are often treated without respect and their civil rights are violated. All this has now been confirmed through the work of Dr. Scot Wortley.
Second, as Kendall Worth has pointed out several times on these pages, there is a similar bias and lack of empathy among police and security guards when it concerns poor people and people who live with invisible disabilities.
Thirdly, police have a history of being unwilling to deescalate potentially violent situations. Just over the last six months or so there was the Black man tasered on Quinpool Road, the trial and firing of a cop who beat up a man outside of a homeless shelter, the unprovoked attack on a teenager at a Bedford mall, and the Santina Rao debacle. Situations here tend to get worse and more difficult when police get involved.
Finally, there are no signs that the HRP and RCMP learned a lesson from the entire street check fiasco. As we wrote earlier, so far Halifax Regional Police (HRP) and RCMP are not at all pursuing the implementation of many of the recommendations called for in the Wortley street checks report one year ago. No tracking, no screening of new recruits for racial bias, no anti-bias training, no new policies to address the police code of silence.
I shudder to think what further damage the police can wreak upon already battered marginalized communities, especially with even fewer controls in place than in more normal times, and fanned on by a scared population.
Of course people are scared and don’t want careless and dangerous behaviour to jeopardize the health of people within their community. However, calling the cops isn’t a solution.
There’s already plenty of misery going around in this world right now. Let’s not add to it.
With a special thanks to our generous donors who make publication of the Nova Scotia Advocate possible.
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