Expect changes to Halifax police street check policies in fall 2017: chief

Halifax Regional Police Chief Jean-Michel Blais pictured in Halifax on June 19, 2017. Steve Silva / Global News

Even as the analysis into police street checks in Halifax continues, the municipality’s top cop says policy changes are on the way.

Police chief Jean-Michel Blais said he wants the force to look at making changes by as early as this fall.

“I’ve already given the marching orders to my people to look at how can we improve our policies, how can we tighten up our policies independent of the analysis that is going to be ongoing,” Blais told reporters Monday after a Board of Police Commissioners meeting.

A report from Halifax RCMP released earlier this year showed in the first 10 months of 2016, 41 per cent of 1,246 street checks involved African Nova Scotians.

READ MORE: Black in Halifax? You’re three times more likely to undergo police check

Halifax Regional Police figures showed more surprising numbers: of the roughly 37,000 people checked between 2005 and 2016 just over 11 per cent — almost 4,100 — were black, despite making up only 3.59 per cent of the municipal population, according to the 2011 census.

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The analysis is being conducted between police research co-ordinator Chris Giacomantonio and the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission on the practice of street checks, though there’s no indication of what the end result will be.

Another researcher is also coming on board to analyze street check data, Blais said, though the person has not yet been hired.

Deleting data

Among the policy changes, Blais said he’d like to see street checks more than two years old be deleted.

Asked if any legislative changes would be needed to do so, he said he doesn’t expect it would be required but they’ll be looking into whether it’s needed or not.

Blais said he wants input from both investigators and frontline officers before proceeding further.

“This is something for myself, but once again it’ll be up to the individual investigators on the value of the street checks to be able to say, but they’re going to have to be able to justify it beyond two years in my mind,” he said.

READ MORE: Halifax RCMP conduct street checks on black people more than Halifax police

“Unless there’s of anything of great importance, that record per se should not have to be in there after two years.”

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Discussions ongoing with community

Since the numbers were released, various advocacy groups have pushed police and multiple levels of government to end the practice of street checks.

Blais said discussions have taken place with the community, and he expects there to be discussions about dialogue with the community within the newly created diversity working group that is set to meet next month.

READ MORE: Advocacy group pushes for the end of ‘discriminatory’ street checks in Halifax

“This is going to be a work in progress,” he said.

He added he feels discussions with the community have gone well and “just because people may not agree with certain approaches, it doesn’t mean that there is no dialogue.”

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