A Halifax Regional Police bicycle officer with his name tag covered forms part of a chain to allow a wagon full of arrested protesters to leave on Aug. 18, 2021. — Photo: Zane Woodford

Halifax Regional Police Chief Dan Kinsella is promising a “fulsome” review of the events of Aug. 18, and while it’s unlikely the findings will be public, an independent review could be on the way.

The Halifax Board of Police Commissioners met on Monday for the first time since police evicted people living in parks and deployed pepper spray against protesters at the former Halifax Memorial Library. The next day, Aug. 19, Kinsella told reporters that his officers “responded appropriately.”

It wasn’t on the agenda for the meeting and he didn’t mention it in his monthly update, but Kinsella faced questions about the incident from the board on Monday.

First, newly sworn-in Commissioner Harry Critchley tabled a petition with more than 2,000 signatures calling for an “independent, civilian review of the Halifax Regional Police’s actions on August 18, 2021, in coordination with any related reviews or investigations that may be ordered by HRM Regional Council.”

The board will discuss that petition, with a motion to come, at the next meeting, scheduled for Oct. 18.

Following Kinsella’s monthly update to the board, Coun. Lindell Smith, the chair, asked Kinsella to talk about the events of Aug. 18. Kinsella instead talked about what the police are doing about the tents and emergency shelters now.

“We continue to work with HRM service providers and others in an effort to provide alternatives to the housing crisis that we’re obviously all faced with,” Kinsella said.

“We are also cognizant of the ongoing impact that some of these sites have on the community, so we’re working closely, certainly monitoring where we can, responding for calls for service as appropriate, and continue to try to get to where we all want to get to and providing all opportunities through the education piece and the alternatives that I know many, many are working very hard to bring forward and to get people into. I’ll leave it at that unless there’s some specific questions that any of the commissioners have that I’m able to address.”

Later, Critchley asked Kinsella about scope of the internal review he promised during that media event on Aug. 19, when he said “we are reviewing the situation in its entirety.”

“That review is continuing again in its totality with all of the information and feedback that we’re getting from the community. As you can imagine, there has been a number of people that have contacted us, there’s a few as involved persons and there’s a much larger number that have contacted us as observers and what they believe have occurred. We will continue to take the time that it needs to do a fulsome review,” Kinsella said on Monday.

Lack of name tags being investigated

Kinsella said there have been complaints about officers not wearing name tags, something the Halifax Examiner and other media outlets observed on Aug. 18.

“It is, in some instances, a potential misconduct issue that has to be reviewed. In other instances, there may be an explanation as to why you know a particular officer did not have a name tag situated, whether they came to help from a different area, not generally in uniform, those kinds of things,” he said.

A Halifax Regional Police officer with no name tag pepper sprayed protesters who were sitting on a wall helping others who’d already been pepper sprayed on Aug. 18, 2021. — Photo: Zane Woodford

Asked whether the completed review will be presented to the board, Kinsella said, “as an overview, perhaps.” He said he wouldn’t share details about complaints against individual officers.

Commissioner Carole McDougall asked about policy on name tags and thin blue line patches, which some officers were photographed wearing on Aug. 18.

“Officers should be wearing name tags on the most outer level of clothing that they are wearing at the time,” Kinsella said.

“There is definitely a requirement for officers to identify themselves when they’re interacting with the public.”

As for the thin blue line patches, Kinsella said: “The blue line patch is not an approved item to be worn by the Halifax Regional Police.”

Smith asked Kinsella to forward those specific policies to the board.

During the discussion about officers breaking policy and not wearing name tags, Coun. Lisa Blackburn suggested maybe they shouldn’t have name tags.

“I’m just wondering if HRP has ever considered going from a name tag scenario to a number scenario,” Blackburn said.

“I know that some jurisdictions have moved from officers having their name on their uniform and moving instead to having their badge number or some other identifying number, more for a safety issue I guess so that people are not able to see an officer’s name look them up on Facebook and further identify them and their families from that.”

Kinsella said “there is a renewed discussion on the best way to do it,” and told the board that some jurisdictions list the officer’s last name and a number. HRP’s current name tags show the officer’s last name and first initial.

“We’re looking at all options and seeing which is the best way for our members to be engaged and or identified through members of the public,” Kinsella said.

Kinsella said he’s talking to the union about this issue, and it will be “part and parcel of everything that has now come out of this particular incident.” He pointed out that HRP officers, some of whom outright refused to identify themselves on Aug. 18, have business cards they can hand out to the public.

Complaint against Kinsella

Kinsella himself is also facing a public complaint.

At the end of Monday’s meeting, the board spent an hour and a half in camera, meaning in private. There were two information items on the in camera agenda: an update on a “security matter” — the more sensitive portions of the auditor general report that found HRP IT security is weak and the force lied to the board — and “correspondence dated August 30, 2021.”

Halifax Regional Police Chief Dan Kinsella speaks to the board of police commissioners during a meeting on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020. Photo: Zane Woodford

Following the in camera session, the board reconvened in public and passed a motion to “forward the complaint received by the municipal clerk’s office on Aug. 26, 2021 to the Police Complaints Commissioner per s. 73(6) of the Police Act and … direct that the contents of the in camera session of the September 20, 2021 Board of Police Commissioner’s meeting be maintained private and confidential.”

That section of the Police Act is titled “Complaint about chief officer.” It reads, in full:

73 (1) A complaint respecting the conduct or performance of duty of a member of a municipal police department who is the chief officer shall be referred to the board.

(2) The board shall investigate the complaint and attempt to resolve the complaint.

(3) The board may designate a person to investigate the complaint and report to the board.

(4) A person conducting an investigation pursuant to this Section is a special constable and has all the powers and immunities of a peace officer during the investigation and any hearing related to the matter under investigation.

(5) Where the complaint is not satisfactorily resolved by the board and where the person making the complaint or the chief officer has requested a review of that decision by the Review Board, the complaint shall be referred to the Complaints Commissioner in accordance with the regulations.

(6) The board shall report all complaints concerning a chief officer to the Complaints Commissioner at the time and in the manner prescribed by the regulations.

It’s unclear whether the board has chosen to investigate the complaint itself or designate someone else to investigate it. The motion keeping the in camera discussion private and confidential means those details and the substance of the complaint won’t be made public. The public motion just indicates the board will report the complaint to the Complaints Commissioner, as required under s. 73 (6).

The Examiner has obtained the complaint, which points to the news conference on Aug. 19:

I draw your attention to the public news conference of last week.

During this conference, Kinsella demonstrated great contempt for the concepts of fairness, truth, and embarrassed his own and the HRP integrity.

This email is for Mr Smith, in his capacity as chair of the police board, as complaints against the Chief are exclusively within the boards responsible, per Police Act regulations 21 (3). https://novascotia.ca/just/regulations/regs/polregs.htm For courtesy, I am including the professional standard organization (though they have no responsibility for investigations at this level), and the provincial Serious Incident Response Team.

The Regulations, section 5 (e) this specific position requires ” exceptional oral and written communication skills;” and I offer that a presentation to, and for the public requires some fundamental level of balanced discord; one can’t imagine the intent of the Regulations requires and allows a good deception, but fairness and honestly.

Not needing to go further, I note that describing defensive fist aid material such as milk as a weapon is not fair and balanced. This goes well beyond “spin”. This was a display of lies and contempt for the public; this is fundamentally dishonest, and repeated. This was not an off hand remark, but the basic thesis of the presentation.

Violation of oath.

Per the Regulations, it is a requirement for Officers to take an oath to, among other things, “impartially” carry out their duties, which would include their use of their communication skills. As the senior officer, Kinsella has without question a duty to enforce disciple of his officers, at least as much as any tactical choice of the day.

Kinsella openingly admitted to not being at (my words) “the library grounds”, and yet was completely confident in what he perceived as positive and necessary actions of his officers – the arrests – while simultaneously dismissive to the credible accusations of unnecessary escalation of force (including the use of chemical weapons causing harm to bystanders, apparently including children), officers being out of uniform, both intentionally removing their name tags and wearing symbols of hate…. Simply, he described police as perfect and everyone else as wrong, and he wasn’t there. This is a failure of his responsibility to verify his officers statements.

Logically, it is not “impartial” to make a snap decision approving of the use of force (itself I may grant a snap decision), and also expecting an “investigation” to deal with serious discipline failures.

Kinsella would suggest civilians, untrained and angry get arrested, police, trained and paid to be there, deserve their actions ignored. This is the exact opposite of “impartial”. The courts will eventually determine criminal guilt to be sure. Kinsella has poisoned this sober, next day process. Civilians wrong. Police perfect.

If Kinsella is invoking some “law of the jungle” that snap decisions are to be considered in context, the consider them in context. Police officers in several thousands of dollars in protective gear voluntarily faced people with milk and water bottles. Only one side was at risk of bodily harm. Only one side had snap arrests made and tickets issued against them.

This carefully crafted message does nothing but bring the force – and the very concept of policing in a free society – into disrepute.

As this act was a public news conference, and I personally witnessed it in the HRM as a resident and as citizen of the HRM. I consider this a personal affront. I am not a third party to Kinsellas indifference to his responsibility of impartiality.

I implore the Chair to directly and personally open an investigation into this embarrassment of an officer.

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Zane Woodford

Zane Woodford is the Halifax Examiner’s municipal reporter. He covers Halifax City Hall and contributes to our ongoing PRICED OUT housing series. Twitter @zwoodford

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  1. I grew up in a Halifax where the police for the most part were friendly and more importantly were trusted and considered part of the community. As a little boy I remember fondly the friendy cops on the downtown beat in the Hollis/Morris vacinity. They were respected and we were glad to have them so close by.

    It was a mutual respect based on trust. Never did I think that an incident would occur where the police of this city would turn to violence against the residents it swore to protect.

    Then to have the Chief defend these actions is not acceptable at any level. He wasn’t even there taking charge as he should have been. This is the second of last two chiefs that have proven to be far less  the leaders their CV indicated. Isn’t it about time that HRP promoted within its ranks to fill this position?Are the senior officers at HRP so inept that we always have to go out of province to fill this position?

    Then we have a police commission who doesn’t appear to have any power to correct these ineptitudes.But council continues with its studies and reviews on police services I think four are running concurrently all titled differently but amounting to the same thing. These studies and reviews are costing thousands of dollars paid by an already overtaxed public. HRM is not a good place to live if you are one of the peasants, the gentry fair just fine as they have throughout history the proof for that is apparent in the way they do business in council.They lie and expect the public to believe just because they said it. This was proven in the excellent post pepper spraying “Gaslighting”article in this publication.