Matthew Martin had hopes of joining the Saint John Police Board of Commissioners, aiming to make changes to the system in Saint John. It would take nearly two years for him to find out he wasn’t going to be able to get a seat at the table.
The commission was created over two decades ago by city council with regulations under the New Brunswick Police Act. It was then that a Level 2 security clearance was made necessary to join the program.
Martin, who works with Black Lives Matter New Brunswick, was ready to be appointed to the board following a clear security check, but he found later that would be problematic.
A member of his family had a past criminal history, and even with a clean record, he wouldn’t pass the security check, which is conducted by an outside police force.
“I’m no risk to the police commission,” Martin said in an interview with Global News.
“My professionalism should not be interpreted because of people who I associate with, because of their actions. I cannot control their actions. So it’s an attack on my professionalism based off other individuals’ actions. To me, it is really not appropriate; I had nothing to do (with them). I can’t control what they had done at all in their life.”
The board can create rules and regulations on what best serves its interests, which comes from section 7(13) of the New Brunswick Police Act.
Under Section 7(13), “A board may make rules consistent with this Act and the regulations for the purpose of performing its responsibilities under this Act and shall file each rule made with the Commission.”
The Act does not provide direction to municipalities for security clearances.
Fighting from the outside-in
In the wake of finding out Martin was denied, Saint John city councillor Joanna Killen removed herself from the board and has since been replaced by Mayor Donna Reardon.
Killen said she’s hoping to take the fight to council to initiate change.
“I think if we identify injust or unfair rules, we can look at those as a commission and as a council, and we should when they come up,” Killen said.
“I would love there to be more space and more room for everyone to be heard.”
For Martin, he hopes his message can make a change not only for himself but also for others who have hopes of joining the board. He noted that bringing diverse voices to the table is difficult under current regulations.
“We have to kind of look at the reality of it is that a lot of folks who are from racialized community groups come from priority neighbourhoods. Our priority neighbourhoods are rampant with drugs. They have a higher police presence. It’s really lucky if you don’t have a negative interaction or gain some type of criminal record or don’t have a friend who isn’t a drug dealer or into any type of illegal activities.”