Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said the province’s Serious Incident Response Team (SiRT) was involved in the investigation into police’s handling of homeless encampment evictions. SiRT in fact said it has no mandate to be involved and the investigation is being handled internally by Halifax Regional Police.
A petition has been launched calling for an independent investigation of Halifax police actions during the homeless encampment evictions in August.
“It’s not just the awful, actual things that happened that day, it’s the claims that police are making about it not being a secure space need to be investigated,” said Tari Ajadi with the East Coast Prison Justice Society, who organized the petition.
“What we need to do is we need to have an independent body come in and adjudicate these claims.”
Twenty-four demonstrators were arrested outside the former Halifax public library on Aug. 18 while police and city contractors removed temporary homeless shelters.
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Tensions became heated during the protest, with Halifax Regional Police officers resorting to forcing protesters back and using pepper spray.
The 24 protesters have been charged by police with a variety of offences, including obstruction, assaulting police and resisting arrest.
In its petition posted online, the East Coast Prison Justice Society says the actions of police on Aug. 18 “reflect longstanding and systemic issues with policing in HRM, including the municipality’s reliance on police to address complex social needs.”
It’s for that reason that Ajadi says the investigation into police actions should be conducted by the Halifax Board of Police Commissioners — a civilian oversight body of Halifax Regional Police.”
On Tuesday, Global News reached out to Halifax Regional Police to speak with Chief Dan Kinsella, but was told that he wouldn’t be available for an interview “as he has prior commitments.”
Police were also asked about whether any disciplinary action was taken for officer conduct on Aug. 18 after citizens filed complaints regarding the lack of ID on police uniforms. In response, HRP media relations officer Const. John MacLeod said that “it would be inappropriate for us to comment on an incident that is before the courts.”
As of Wednesday morning, the petition had just over 3,600 signatures. Organizers hope they reach 5,000 by the time the Halifax Board of Police Commissioners meets again on Oct. 17.
—with files from Alexa MacLean.