When Chief Dan Kinsella took the top job with the Halifax police, he knew there were ongoing problems in the relationship between the force and the African Nova Scotian community.
Kinsella, who was sworn in this past July, said from day one his top priority was to reach out to the community and to build up relationships.
“We know we have to work on public trust. It takes a lifetime to build and a moment to lose,” Kinsella said following a private in-camera meeting with the police board of commissioners Monday.
The board requested an information briefing from Kinsella following an arrest incident at the Mumford Road Walmart last week, which saw police violently arrest a Black woman inside the store after an employee called police, alleging the 23-year-old Santina Rao was shoplifting.
Rao, a single mother with two children, was shopping with her kids when she was approached by police.
A video shot by a bystander shows Rao being thrown to the ground. She says she sustained a broken wrist, a concussion and injuries to her neck and arms as a result of the incident.
A protest and rally for Rao was held Friday at the Walmart store, where a large crowd of supporters gathered, calling for an end to racial profiling.
El Jones, a professor, poet and activist, helped organize the rally and spoke at the police board of commissioners meeting on Monday.
She encouraged the board to freeze the police budget, saying the police are failing the Black community.
“Why should we give this police force more money when with the resources they already have, they are not using them to police correctly?” said Jones.
“They are violating the rights of the African Nova Scotians and have shown no real commitment to the community and have not met our demands.”
In November, Kinsella delivered a historic and formal apology for the now-banned practice of street checks, but it’s been overshadowed by the Walmart incident and the arrest and tasering of a Black man on Quinpool Road in early December. Both arrest incidents have drawn major criticism of the police.
Kinsella called the incidents unfortunate.
“These types of incidents are certainly something that we take very seriously and it doesn’t make anybody happy to have to deal with these things,” said Kinsella.
“But we will deal with them and we will deal with them appropriately and we will gather all the information in fairness to everyone involved and that’s what we have to pay attention to.”
For the Walmart arrest, Rao is facing charges of assaulting a police officer, resisting arrest and causing a disturbance.
Jones says Rao’s treatment by police constitutes a street check.
“This (arrest) indicates that the police have not yet changed their practices despite this so-called ban on racial profiling,” said Jones.
Kinsella said he’s referred the arrest to the Serious Incident Response Team, the Nova Scotia police watchdog, and confirmed the officers involved in the arrest are still on regular duty.
SiRT interim director Patrick Curran says the investigation is in the preliminary stages and the watchdog has yet to confirm if it will fully investigate the arrest.