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Covid enforcement and the Wortley recommendations

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – It was in January 2017 that a Freedom of Information request by CBC journalists revealed that Black people in Halifax were three times as likely to be street checked by Halifax police as white Haligonians.

Then, in March 2019 came the Wortley report that established that things were even worse. Black people were actually six times more likely to be street checked. In October of the same year, there was the provincial ban on street checks.

Apart from the ban very little has happened in terms of concrete changes.

Don’t take my word for it.

While he applauds the Nova Scotia government and police for their “remarkably quick response” in banning the practice, much more needs to be done — and fast, Scott Wortley told the CBC in June of this year..

Wortley said how police treat Black people, including during traffic stops, need to be monitored more closely and the data collected so that police can be held accountable.

“What is the evidence that the number of unnecessary police interactions with members of the African Nova Scotia community have been reduced? What is the evidence that race relations have improved? What is the evidence that other recommendations are being treated seriously and considered?” he said. 

That would be Recommendation 3.2 in the Wortley report, “that police record information on all stops of civilians, including the race of the person involved, and whether the stop was consensual.”

“This data system should record information on both traffic stops and stops involving pedestrians. The information to be collected on each stop should include: the date of the stop, the time of the stop, the location of the stop, the reason for the stop and the outcome of the stop (no action, warning, ticket, summons, arrest, etc.),” Wortley writes.

The Board of Police Commissioners has created a handy spreadsheet tracking progress on the recommendations.

On this one (and many others) they haven’t even started.

Now Halifax police say to expect more fines and more aggressive policing of measures in place to stop COVID-19 from spreading, including a $1,000 fine for every person who walks through the door of a gathering that exceeds the allowed number of participants.”

It would be good to understand how many African Nova Scotians are being targeted in this new campaign, and how that compares to the general population. It was exactly to answer these questions that the recommendation was made.

But we will never know.

See also: Robert Wright: “All agencies that are responsible for upholding the civil and human rights of Black people have failed us”

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