News / Halifax

Police training, data changes part of updates to Halifax street checks

New numbers show roughly a third of Halifax street checks were visual only, not a personal interaction.

Police Chief Jean-Michel Blais.

Jeff Harper/Metro

Police Chief Jean-Michel Blais.

Halifax police are working on new training, bringing in an independent expert, and improving interactions with black Nova Scotians when it comes to street checks.

The Board of Police Commissioners received an update on Halifax Regional Police street checks in their meeting Monday, stemming from data spanning 11 years released by the force in January that shows black people in Halifax are three times more likely than white people to be street checked.

Street checks, referred to as carding in Ontario and elsewhere, are when “an officer either observes somebody or something going on or has an interaction or conversation with someone” and then records it in a form.

Dr. Chris Giacomantonio, research coordinator, told reporters he’s still waiting to hear who will be appointed by the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission as an independent expert to work alongside him to analyze street check data, but recently discovered that roughly a third of the street checks didn’t involve personal interaction.

While initially Giacomantonio said they thought 23 per cent of the checks were visual only since they were categorized that way, he later got internal feedback saying many officers put a street check under other categories like a “suspicious person” even if there was no contact.

After randomly sampling 200 reports and reading through the notes, Giacomantonio determined new parameters to apply to the data and now estimates that about 38 per cent (plus or minus 7 per cent) of street checks were only visual, with 62 per cent involving interaction.

Chief Jean-Michel Blais said experts will be brought in for a training module on fair and impartial policing during the 2018 season of January to May, when every single member participates, and they’re also looking at procedural justice training.

“This has sparked an important debate in our community,” Blais said after the meeting.

“We want to look at the whole picture, we want to be able to determine what are we doing right, what are we not doing right?”

*An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that 62 per cent of street checks were visual only, not 38 per cent.

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