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New Halifax police chief installed, promises to be inclusive, respectful


July 8, 2019
By The Canadian Press
During the swearing-in, Kinsella received the force’s “walking stick,” that belonged to the force’s first chief, Garrett Cotter, who brought suspects ranging from pirates to would-be assassins to justice in the 19th century. Photo: Brent Fiander Halifax Regional Police

Halifax’s new police chief pledged to build “a platform of trust” with the community — including reaching out to the city’s minorities — as he was installed with bagpipes, drums and an honour guard.

Dan Kinsella, the former deputy chief of Hamilton police, assumed his role in a formal ceremony on Friday.

During the ceremony, the 54-year-old police officer said he is committed to fostering “a respectful and inclusive relationship to develop a platform of trust with members of our communities.”

The police force has faced criticisms for its relationship with the city’s black population, but Kinsella told reporters he’ll be spending time in minority communities to develop strategies to improve the force’s image.

“The community needs to have confidence in its police chief and its police service. So we’ll be working on that,” he said, adding he will begin meetings next week.

“I know there have been some inequalities and negative interactions, so I’m going to work on that with the community.”

In March, a report by University of Toronto criminology professor Scot Wortley found African Nova Scotians in the Halifax area were more than five times more likely to be stopped by police. The street checks were found to have had a “disproportionate and negative” impact on the black community.

An internet-based community survey conducted for the study indicated “overall confidence in law enforcement is relatively high,” but noted that just 28 per cent of black respondents “trust the police.”

Wortley referred to that result as “highly racialized” in his final report.

The survey of 506 Halifax residents was carried out between Sept. 4 and Nov. 29 last year. The polling industry’s professional body, the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, says online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error because they do not randomly sample the population.

The Halifax Board of Police Commissioners has asked the city’s police and RCMP to prepare a joint statement formally apologizing for the way they have conducted street checks.

Both forces, which each patrol parts of the city, have indicated they don’t plan to offer an apology “at this time.”

Kinsella said he hasn’t made up his mind yet on whether to proceed with a future apology.

“We need to do it properly. We need to give it thoughtful consideration,” he said.

In April, Nova Scotia Justice Minister Mark Furey ordered a provincewide moratorium on police street checks, saying it was the best remedy for damage done to relations between the black community and peace officers.

Furey hasn’t indicated yet whether the province will bring in legislation to better define the limits of street checks — the practice of police stopping pedestrians or drivers without cause and asking for identification and other information.

During the swearing-in, Kinsella received the force’s “walking stick,” that belonged to the force’s first chief, Garrett Cotter, who brought suspects ranging from pirates to would-be assassins to justice in the 19th century.

He takes over the position previously held by Jean-Michel Blais, who retired in April.

The veteran officer comes to Halifax with more than 32 years of experience, including the oversight of investigative services and three patrol divisions in Hamilton.

Carole McDougall, the acting chair of the board of police commissioners, said during the ceremony that the new chief’s prior career in Ontario included the uncovering of internet child exploitation, and major investigations into human trafficking and fraud.

– Michael Tutton

News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc., 2019