Questions of diversity raised as Halifax appoints new police chief

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WATCH: Halifax’s new police chief will be stepping into his new role on July 1. His appointment comes as the force works to deal with the issue of street checks. Those in racialized communities say the hiring of a white male was a lost opportunity. Alicia Draus has more – May 1, 2019

Halifax Regional Council have approved the recommendation by the Board of Police Commissioners to appoint Dan Kinsella as the next Halifax Regional Police chief.

Kinsella comes from the Hamilton Police Service and will take up the new role on July 1.

READ MORE: Hamilton police’s Dan Kinsella chosen as new Halifax Regional Police chief

The new chief was hired after a nationwide search which the selection panel says brought forward a diverse group of candidates from both a gender and cultural perspective.

“One of the key things for us was diversity, and looking at getting diversity in applicants for the position but also understanding at what type of work the candidates have done in diversity,” said police commissioner Natalie Borden.

But there are now criticisms that the board’s attempt to promote diversity falls flat, after hiring a white male.

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“If you’re going to appoint a white man to the role, you can’t celebrate that you had a diverse pool of people that you interviewed,” said social worker, Robert Wright.

“Because that’s not the measure of your real commitment.”

Activist Quentrel Provo calls it a missed opportunity to get a police chief with a more diverse background.

“It would have been a big stand, if we got a black police chief. It would have been a step forward, a big step forward in creating the change we’re looking for.”

For years, the African Nova Scotian community has raised concerns about being racially profiled and mistreated by police. In March, the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission released a report that found black males were nine times more likely to be stopped by police than the general population.

Many have been calling for a ban on street checks and while Nova Scotia’s justice minister recently announced a suspension on police street checks, the issue remains a controversial topic.

READ MORE: N.S. justice minister suspends police street checks on pedestrians, vehicle passengers

“Someone of a diverse race would understand how it feels to deal with systemic racism,” said Provo.

But he says he will wait and see how the new chief approaches the issues before he passes judgement.

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“We’ve been racially profiled so long and mistreated by police that now it’s about building trust and trying to repair,” he said.

“It’s not going to take a couple months, it’s not going to take a year, it’s going to take years of consistency and years of them  you know, doing good in the community and treaty us fairly [and] equally.”

Wright says, ultimately, there does not have to be a person of colour as police chief to help mend relationships, but he says if diversity was an important part of the hiring process, he would like to see the diversity credentials of the person hired.

“It doesn’t appear to me from his resume that he has revolutionized any kind of policing units, [or] innovated diversity policing or investigation, or human resources related to the diversification of policing units.”
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Despite any criticisms, the Police Commission maintains that the hiring process was fair and just. Borden says they acknowledge that street checks and diversity are key issues in Halifax, and that they were discussed when interviewing candidates.

“All of us that were on the panel really felt very, very strongly that [Kinsella] was the one that best fit what was needed in order to move HRP forward, and to start tackling some of these challenging issues,” she said.

Borden also notes that the selection panel itself is one of the most diverse across the country — with female, Indigenous, and African Nova Scotian representation.

“That shows our commitment to really looking at this issue as something important and making it part of everything that we do,” she said.

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