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Open letter: Harassment, belittlement and false accusations by Halifax police, August 2020

Photo Robert Devet

This is an open letter to Chief Dan Kinsella, the Halifax policing community, various government officials, and various members and organizations within the Black community.  

Chief Kinsella, late last year, a few weeks prior to your department’s apology to the Black community over street checks and racism, I sat in the front row of a panelist discussion at the North Branch Library which you were a participant.  

That night you spoke to a roomful of predominately Black people and pledged your personal attention to any future allegations of misconduct among your department’s officers, particularly as it relates to racially charged misconduct and street checks.  Sadly and regrettably I must take you up on that pledge.   

On the evening of August 13, 2020, in my own neighbourhood, right outside of my children’s classroom, I witnessed a Halifax police officer accelerate his vehicle to make physical contact with a woman, temporarily throwing her off balance.  Vehicular assault. From a block away I could hear her pleading with the officer to leave her alone up until that point.  After stumbling momentarily she asked the officer why he’d done that and then used the phrase “Black Lives Matter”.  My heart raced. 

When the lady asked me for directions I figured I would just walk the lady home if the officer would allow it. I figured it to be nothing more than a minor matter of public disturbance, perceived or otherwise.  I was polite and respectful the whole time.   

The officer then began to question and falsely accuse me about a stolen vehicle.  When I asked his name he ignored and called me over towards his vehicle.  The woman was becoming increasingly agitated. 

After the officer was done referring to the woman as “that girl”, repeatedly asking me the same open ended questions which I answered honestly and politely, accusing me of lying to him, falsely accusing me of colluding with the woman, and implying that I was somehow up to no good, he arrogantly muttered the words “Get out of the road”, under his breath as to not actually be giving me an order, but rather to be blatantly condescending, as he reversed his vehicle and took off without giving his name as I had requested.  At no point did he even ask me my name.  He knew he’d messed up. 

By his own admission, the officer had been dealing with the woman for 35 minutes despite the fact that no criminal charges were pending, and the fact that she was being utterly insistent that he leave her alone.  That’s harassment.   

After referring to the woman – a Black woman – to me – a Black man – as “that girl”, he proceeded to make a number of accusations to me about the woman.  He didn’t say to me that these were allegation, but rather he stated them to me (a stranger) as facts. 

I must insist to be immediately made aware of this officer’s name. 

Should George Gray & Geraldine Browning, Alma Johnson, Reverend Wallace Smith, or Pastor Lennett Anderson of the African United Baptist Association; Senator Wanda Thomas-Bernard; Professors Saney & Jeffers from the Dalhousie Black Faculty & Staff Caucus; Shawn Parker of CeaseFire Halifax; Corey Wright and PJ Smith of 902 Man-Up; members of Game Changers 902; Quentel Provo of Stop the Violence; contributors to the social media platform EastCoastWave; or community members El Jones, Lynn Jones or Raymond Sheppard wish to view the video of the incident that night, please feel free to contact me to arrange it. Please do not feel obligated, but feel free. 

Attached to this e-mail is a PDF file of a much more detailed version of these events. 

In the interest of accountability, this e-mail is being sent to Chief Kinsella, various government officials, various members of and organizations in the Black community, and blind carbon copies to various members of the Halifax Regional Police and the local justice community.  In the coming days, I intend to share this letter, additionally, with the various Black Lives Matter groups throughout the Atlantic Provinces. 

Chief Kinsella, members of the Black community invite uniformed officers into their churches, Black officers in your department go out of their way to defend your department online, and our leaders have extended their hands both figuratively and literally, all in an effort to build trust between your department and the community – particularly the Black community.  This in of itself creates division within the Black community, and they themselves often receive negative backlash from within the Black community for their efforts.  It doesn’t seem to be doing any good. 

Chief Kinsella, I urge you to do what is right. 

Regards, 

Matthew Byard 

See also: It sure looks like Halifax police continues to harass Black Nova Scotians

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One Comment

  1. In my humble opinion the racial harassment by some Halifax Regional Police officers has never stopped or has Street checks. Without measurable outcomes Chief Kinsella’s apology was basically a publicity stunt. Actions still speak louder than hollow words. Municipal Elections are coming let’s vote out some people and add a little color.

    Raymond Sheppard

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