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Access-to-information officer accuses Halifax police of ‘stonewalling’

HALIFAX - Nova Scotia's access-to-information review officer is accusing the Halifax police of "stonewalling" her and undermining her oversight role after the force refused to send her records about whether any officers ran a lie-detector company.

September 13, 2011  By Corrie Sloot

Aug 02 2011

HALIFAX – Nova Scotia’s access-to-information review officer is accusing the Halifax police of “stonewalling” her and undermining her oversight role after the force refused to send her records about whether any officers ran a lie-detector company.

In a scathing report, Dulcie McCallum says the police force refused to provide any records about whether officers operated a private lie-detector business in contravention of internal rules.

The refusal came after police initially indicated to her they would send the records, she said.


“The Halifax Regional Police has stalled and is now stonewalling the review officer, impeding my ability to perform my statutory duty to investigate … by not providing a copy of the record,” she says in her report.

McCallum said police are arguing they’re exempt from her oversight because the matter may involve a proceeding leading to a prosecution. But she says the force has provided no evidence of that.

“I find the Halifax Regional Police has not provided the review office with one scintilla of evidence of any pending or actual prosecution,” she wrote.

Her report is in response to an access-to-information request filed earlier this year by The Canadian Press.

On March 28, The Canadian Press applied under access-to-information legislation for records of Halifax police officers involved in a private lie-detector company, including records that indicate whether any officers were in breach of the police department’s rules on outside employment and whether discipline was meted out.

The police originally rejected the application based on a provision of the Municipal Government Act that permits public bodies to refuse to disclose documents that might harm the effectiveness of investigative techniques. At the time, the force said The Canadian Press could appeal to the province’s review officer.

In a letter dated June 6, the police changed course, saying the records requested were excluded under another provision of the law because they related to a prosecution, and therefore not subject to a review.

In her report, McCallum accuses the police of “attempting to use an ongoing investigation that may or may not result in a prosecution as a means of avoiding producing the record to the independent oversight review officer.”

“If permitted to do what it is proposing, the Halifax Regional Police’s conduct would stand as a precedent for public bodies trying to escape from under the oversight provisions by claiming a record is excluded and not having to back that claim up with anything.”

McCallum said she wants full disclosure of documents to ensure criminal investigations are underway.

“In an instance such as this, a public body’s claim cannot be accepted at face value. Because the police has made misrepresentations to the review office and dramatically altered its decisions to the applicant, the review officer is required to ensure the exclusion applies,” she said.

In late March, Halifax police said two officers were suspended with pay under the Police Act. The force has refused to identify those officers, saying they’re not permitted to talk about internal disciplinary matters.

But one of the officers has been identified as Deputy Chief Chris McNeil by his brother, Stephen, who serves as the province’s Opposition Liberal leader.

A CBC report has cited unidentified sources who say Chris McNeil is under investigation to determine whether he committed perjury in a case involving another brother, who is also a Halifax police officer.

CBC says the deputy chief was interviewed during two separate investigations into Halifax police officers and their involvement with a private lie-detector company.

“There is an investigation underway relating to these matters,” Halifax police Const. Brian Palmeter said in an email Tuesday. But he declined to say whether it was a criminal investigation or an investigation under the Police Act, which governs internal police conduct.

The Halifax police are required by law to respond to McCallum’s report by Aug. 27. Palmeter said the force would have a response by then.

McCallum can go to the Nova Scotia Supreme Court in her efforts to see the requested records.

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