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Nova Scotia appoints former watchdog head as new police complaint commissioner

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Nova Scotia’s justice minister has appointed the former interim head of the Serious Incident Response Team (SiRT) as the province’s new police complaints commissioner.

Patrick Curran begins his three-year term as the head of the civilian, independent office on Dec. 1.

The police complaints commissioner is responsible for overseeing and monitoring complaints and investigations involving municipal police in the province, including complaints by the public that allege misconduct by officers.

Read more: N.S. premier issues apology for systemic racism in justice system

The office also oversees investigations into internal disciplinary matters involving police officers and supports the police review board, which hears reviews of public complaints and police officers’ appeals against disciplinary penalties or firings.

“The police complaints commissioner is instrumental in ensuring the confidence of Nova Scotians in the municipal police who serve them — which is critical to effective policing and to maintaining positive police and citizen relations,” said justice minister Mark Furey in a press release accompanying the appointment.

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Curran has previously served as the interim head of SiRT, the independent police watchdog in Nova Scotia.

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He also has 38 years of experience as a judge in the Nova Scotia provincial court where he served as chief judge of both the provincial and family courts.

Curran takes the reigns as police actions come under renewed scrutiny in Nova Scotia in the wake of Halifax Regional Police and the province officially apologizing for the practice of street checks — involving a police officer randomly stopping people and collecting personal information.

A report released in 2019 found that both the RCMP and the Halifax Regional Police’s practice of street checks were disproportionately targeting the Black community in the HRM.

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Produced by criminologist Scot Wortley, the report analyzed data from the Halifax Regional Police and the RCMP and concluded that Black citizens were five times more likely to be street-checked than white citizens.

Premier Stephen McNeil issued an apology in September 2020 to Black and Indigenous Nova Scotians for systemic racism in the province’s justice system.

Read more: Nova Scotians will soon have a year to file a complaint against police

As of Jan. 15, 2021, Nova Scotians will have 12 months to file a complaint with the police complaints commissioner, doubling the previous time frame of only six months.

That time can be extended for an extra 12 months by the commissioner in certain circumstances.

Nova Scotia says the office of the police complaints commissioner received 177 complaints from the public in 2019.

Curran replaces Judith McPhee as commissioner after her retirement.

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