The union representing Halifax Regional Police members says it’s disappointed that its police chief “joined the social media fray” following a social media video that shows an officer aiming his weapon at a Black man.
In a Monday news release, the Halifax Regional Police Association is disputing that the officer involved made a comment threatening the man’s life.
The social media video captures part of a police response to a weapons call on Wentworth Drive on March 26.
In it, a man is holding his hands up in the air, walking around a parked vehicle while an officer follows him with his weapon drawn. The video’s audio seems to capture the officer making a threat against the man’s life before the man bolts from the scene.
The video, shared by DeRico Symonds, co-founder of advocacy group GameChangers902, captioned it on Twitter saying the officer can be heard saying “I will shoot you for a f–king laugh.”
Another post sharing the same video says the officer said “I’ll fill you with f–king lead.”
The association said in the release that this was an incorrect assertion.
“The audio from the clip, while of poor quality, does not appear to support this allegation,” the statement read.
Since the video’s release, HRP Chief Dan Kinsella has said the “comments that appear to have been made by our officer” were “unacceptable.” He confirmed the officer has been placed in administrative duties while an internal investigation takes place.
HRPA says the police officer involved was not given a fair process by law to address an allegation.
“The HRPA is extremely disappointed that, without investigation, Chief of Police Dan Kinsella quickly joined the social media fray and announced that the comments incorrectly attributed to the officer are ‘unacceptable.’
“Rather than conduct an investigation following the requirements of the Police Act, the Chief has already announced his disciplinary conclusion via tweet,” the release read.
“Our members have come to understand that they cannot rely on support from their leadership.”
The union claims it is confident that an investigation will reveal that the allegations are false.
“Our member successfully navigated a high-risk situation without requisite force and in accordance with his training,” said HRPA.
“Calling for the dismissal of an officer based on social media misinformation does not reflect a system of justice that benefits anyone.”
Symonds said in a Sunday statement that his organization considers the actions of the police officer in the video “an act of police misconduct,” and “racially motivated in nature.”
GameChangers902 say the incident was racially motivated
In a Monday morning interview, co-founders of GameChangers902 Symonds, Trayvone Clayton and Kate Macdonald told Global News that the community is hurting.
Macdonald said the incident is an emotional rollercoaster.
“While watching the video, I think we’re conditioned now, unfortunately, to wait for the gunshot. So that’s what I was waiting for — and it never came, luckily.
“I think it’s a very traumatic and emotional roller coaster to be on every time, especially when it’s home,” Macdonald said.
Clayton said he saw many people commenting on social media, saying it’s not known what the Black man did to warrant that reaction from the officer.
“That’s not the reason why we’re talking about it,” he said.
“If that was a white man, none of that wording would’ve been said, the gun wouldn’t have been drawn.”
Symonds said while there is discrepancy in what the audio captures, “we know that it is one of two comments that have been made.”
An additional statement from police read: “We recognize that any such incident can be deeply damaging to police community relations.”
That statement was not up to par, Symonds said.
“It’s a general, crafted communication statement to divert and potentially ease tension,” Symonds said.
“If you put in your statement that this type of event erodes community and public trust between police … that should be an afterthought when we have a particularly serious incident such as this.
“I don’t think that in any situation, where a gun is pulled on anybody, regardless of the skin color, should that be mentioned in a communication statement.”
“I wish that in the crafting of these responses, you would also take into account that you rely on the African Nova Scotia community’s input,” she said.
“That person in that video is me, is my children, my brothers. … And the response, … I don’t think it echoes that.”
GameChangers902 is calling on authorities to take immediate action.
“There’s particular jobs that the margin of error has to be almost zero every time,” Symonds said. “You have to be perfect almost every time.
“Pilots, bus drivers — … there’s lives at stake. Police officers are not excused from that.”
The group has a list of demands for the police agency.
“Our number one is a dismissal of the officer immediately for making such comments,” Symonds said.
He also responded to social media comments questioning criminal activity in relation to the video.
“A lot of our communities, people, are living in survival mode. Some of these communities don’t have the resources that should be afforded to them.
“There’s been systemic disinvestment into a lot of these communities, and if you’re continually living in survival mode, one of the symptoms of that is to figure out how you’re going to get out of that. Thus, you may have to do some things that you may not want to do, that may be deemed illegal by society,” he said.
“That’s not to say anything in relation to even the video itself, but I know that the comments will come in relation to crime and criminal activity.”
Symonds said he’s not an expert on police conduct, but there is discrepancy on what the original call to police was.
The group is hoping to start a phone campaign to allow community members to voice their concerns to HRP on police conduct.
“It has been an exceptionally difficult year for Black folks,” Macdonald said.
“We cannot continue to ask Black folks, one, for free labour; two, to always be polite; and three, to always be patient.”
Symonds added that the situation is an opportunity for accountability.
“This is an opportunity that could be seized to show the public and its people, and those who have been apologized to, that these measures are taken seriously,” he said.