1. Street checks
Halifax councillor Lindell Smith says he has been stopped by the police often:
“I’ve had issues where police followed me, or police have pulled me over and asked questions that really had nothing to do with what I was doing,” he said.
“Of course your mind goes to, is it racism? Is it discrimination? But at the same time, it’s hard to say … You don’t want to think about it that way, because who wants to feel that they’re being discriminated upon based on their colour?”
Smith said he learned to deal with being stopped, and for him, “it was easy because it happened to me a lot.” He’d ask officers for their badge numbers and why they were stopping him, and if they didn’t have an answer, he didn’t comply.
Monday, the police commission discussed the disparate checking of Black people in police checks. After the meeting, I asked deputy police chief Bill Moore what happens if, in a police check, people refuse to identify themselves or say what they’re up to. Moore responded that the police merely note the incident and a description of the person.
As a young man in the United States, I was stopped by police a couple of times. I wasn’t doing anything wrong, and had no prior involvement with the criminal justice system.
The first time was in Richmond, Virginia, where a cop pulled me over one night while I was driving down the road. He told me my car fit the description of a car involved in a robbery. It was only later that night that I realized that was a lie, and sure enough there was no report of such a robbery in the next day’s police blotter.
The second time I was checked was in the college town I lived in in California. I had pedalled my bike (as I always did, legally, observing traffic laws) to the post office to check my box, and as I was getting off the bike a cop demanded my ID. There was no pretext: he was just fucking with me, delaying my day. He ran my license, it came up clean, he told me to have a nice day.
I’m a white guy, and yet these 15-minute incidents felt unfair, a violation, an intrusion of the police into my life by police forces and the potential violent power of the state. I can’t imagine the experience of a Black person who has to endure these stops on a semi-regular basis. Like those of Carlos Beals:
“I’ve had so many encounters being pulled over with the police I don’t even remember them all…They check me out, they come back and say ‘Here you go, have a good day,’” he said.
“I’m to the point where it’s so normal for me to be pulled over that it doesn’t even register with me anymore…Absolutely this is common. It definitely doesn’t surprise me.”
During one incident last year, Beals said he was driving with a client when police pulled him over and initially said he’d cut somebody off.
“An African Nova Scotian client was with me and he was like ‘Watch him pull you over.’ And I was like, ‘No, he has no reason to pull me over,’” Beals recalled.
“Anyhow, we get a bit further ahead and lo and behold he was absolutely right. Police lights and sirens. I know I did not cut anybody off…He (the officer) plugged in my license and registration and came back and said have a good day.”
Or Ashley Taylor:
Taylor, 42, estimates he has been stopped by police an average of three times a year. The student support worker at Dartmouth High School in said it usually happens on his drive to work.
“Is it racial profiling? Possibly.”
Taylor said he always knows when he’s being “checked.”
“When they’re pulling you over, and they’re asking for your licence and registration, they’re looking for cues on how nervous you are — all those kinds of things,” he said.
Even when he believes he didn’t roll a stop sign or drive over the speed limit, Taylor pays the ticket to avoid confrontation.
“It seems like it’s a tax and I keep having to pay.”
The “brown tax” isn’t just the money out of Taylor’s pocket for questionable tickets. It’s a tax on the psyche of the entire Black community, which feels continually under suspicion, regarded as dangerous and criminal, whose very existence is reason for alarm by police.
At Monday’s police commission meeting, police chief Jean-Michel Blais admitted that the police force has no evidence that the checks actually reduce crime or, if they do, to what extent. Blais appealed to an intuitive argument: a cop investigating a criminal matter might go back into the police check data and make connections that lead to an arrest. But Blais said no one tracks those connections, so he couldn’t put a number on it.
In a media scrum after the meeting, I asked Blais how he could measure the negative effects of police checks on the Black community — the distrust of police they engender, the feelings of being targeted — and how they could compare those negative effects to the supposed positive outcomes of police checks. He had no answer.
During the meeting, commissioner Sylvia Parris read portions of a statement by the UN’s Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, which last year was invited by the federal government to visit several cities in Canada, including Halifax, to investigate human rights abuses. The Working Group recommended that we:
Discontinue the practice of carding or street checks and all other forms of racial profiling. Police guilty of racial profiling should be prosecuted. In addition, there must be increased staffing and training. Furthermore, there must be a cultural changer and greater respect for the African Canadian community.
Monitor through periodic external, independent audits of police services practices.
“There should be a moratorium on these kinds of police checks,” said Parris, “until we can be assured they’re not race-based.”
Asked by Parris if he would support a moratorium on police checks, Blais responded: “With regard to a moratorium, I don’t think so.”
Although Black people have been telling us about it for decades, we wouldn’t have the concrete data showing a racial disparity in those targeted by police checks were it not for the CBC filing a Freedom of Information request.
There’s an upside to this story — Blais recently hired researcher Christopher Giacomantonio to study police data with the idea of making it more useful, and by all appearances Giacomantino takes his job seriously and has no interest in “juking the stats” — quite the contrary, by my read.
But even Giacomantonio’s good work doesn’t go as far as the UN’s Working Group’s call for “external, independent audits” of police checks. This is an instance where the city needs to hire an outside consultant to study the stats.
Moreover, Parris’s call for a moratorium on checks is justified.
2. Arca 1
“A salvage team was unable to pull a grounded tanker from a sandy bottom off Cape Breton on Tuesday evening,” report he Canadian Press:
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans says the tow of the Arca 1 was not successful because crews were unable to remove enough ballast water from the ship to increase the vessel’s buoyancy before the high tide started to go down.
The coast guard says the towing has been suspended until the tide and weather co-operate, but it will continue to monitor the vessel.
3. Pedestrian struck
A police release from yesterday:
At 8:03 a.m., police responded to a vehicle/pedestrian collision that occurred in the 700 block of the Bedford Highway. A SUV was travelling inbound when a woman entered the roadway. The pedestrian was not in a marked crosswalk and the vehicle did not have sufficient time to stop and struck the woman. The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries and was transported by EHS to the hospital.
The 48-year-old female pedestrian was issued a summary offence ticket under Section 125(5) of the Motor Vehicle Act for crossing the roadway outside of a crosswalk zone and failing to yield to traffic.
4. Eterpay Ellykay isway ouryay anmay
Kings County is looking for a head-hunting firm to find the county a new CAO. I can make this happen.
1. Boston just lowered speed limits; Halifax should too
“Another major city has lowered urban speed limits in an effort to make its streets safer. As of Monday, Boston’s default speed limit dropped from 30 miles per hour to 25, about the same as going from 50 km/h down to 40,” writes Erica Butler:
Right now, Halifax is perfectly poised to consider a similar move. Our new 10-year transportation plan (Integrated Mobility Plan, or IMP) is in its final stages, and with it, we will be asking city staff for the next decade to embrace the idea that our streets are meant for people of all ages and abilities, using all modes of transportation. We will be reclassifying roads to better reflect their actual use, and further using modern street design tools to make them safer and more efficient for all. The IMP promises to bring the reign of vehicle traffic flow as the priority in our cost-benefit analyses to an end. Moving cars is no longer the end game. In fact, the goal it to move less of them.
I can think of few simpler and more useful ways to express this new value system than to follow the lead of cities like Boston, New York, and Montreal, and reset our default urban speed limits.
This article is behind the Examiner’s paywall and so available only to paid subscribers. Click here to purchase a subscription.
2. Saint John
Stephen Archibald tells us why we should love Saint John.
3. Cranky letter of the day
To the Charlottetown Guardian:
I have a friend who doesn’t watch the news. As co-workers a number of years ago, I made a collage of happy Christmas stories from this newspaper for her.
More recently, calling her with a dinner invitation, she said, “I don’t like news.” I said, “What?” Apparently the last time she came to dinner, which includes an evening of TV, we watched four hours of news.
OK, my first response would be to laugh outrageously. But knowing this long-time friend as I do, she would have hung up. I simply said, “OK, we won’t watch any news.” There’s a reason for this story. Watching the news tonight, I saw where a man murdered his two sons aged 11 and 13. Then took his own life. I saw where an 81-year-old woman was attacked in her home and brutally beaten, the intruder seeking money.
I cannot fathom these acts of violence. Killing one’s children. As a mother of two sons, now in their 40s, I always felt I would have died for my sons and still feel that way, if a choice was to be made. And attacking a defenseless elderly person who, no doubt, throughout her life, led the way for many who came behind her is incomprehensible. Those who carry out these crimes, to my mind, are beyond help.
As a long-time journalist, I like my daily dose of news, be it one hour or four, but I admit, there’s times the news is too hard to take.
Kathy Birt, Mount Stewart
Special Events Advisory Committee (9am, City Hall) — here’s the agenda.
No public meetings.
Mawio’mi: Indigenous Cultural Gathering (11am, Loyola Academic Complex, Room 290) — “Come and experience Indigenous culture, traditions, fry bread tacos, crafts, and dance.”
In the harbour
7am: CSL Tacoma, bulker, arrives at National Gypsum from Philadelphia
10:30am: Boheme, car carrier, arrives at Autoport from Southhampton, England
1pm: Atlantic Shrike, cargo ship, moves from Pier 8 to Pier 9
5pm: Berlin Express, container ship, arrives at Fairview Cove from Norfolk
6pm: Margarethea, cargo ship, sails from Pier 27 for Saint John
7pm: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, arrives at Pier 41 from St. John’s
I’ll be on The Sheldon MacLeod Show, News 95.7, at 2pm.
Re: Halifax Police racism
The statistics now support what has been anecdotally reported for years: Halifax Police are systemically racist. Now stop trying to deny it or explain it or pretend it is not there. Just do something about it. the community – both African Nova Scotian and otherwise – have suffered from this for too long. Just admit to it and deal with it.
We regularly hear that police discovered weapons or drugs during “a routine traffic stop.” I always assume this is code for “we recognized that guy and wondered what he’s up to.”
Is there any evidence to show that 40 km/h would make an improvement?
In general, people drive at sensible speeds and lowering the limit to an unreasonable default of 40 km/h would just invite disrespect for the law.
It would be like having a 100 km/h limit on highways, as Ontario and Quebec do — where everyone drives at 120 km/h anyway — i.e just a bit faster than the 115 km/h that NS motorists drive on our 100 series highways (with 110 km/h)
Speed limits are easily enforced approximations to good driving judgement, but they are not the same thing. I see them as legal expedients.
Like double yellow lines, speed limits nominally set out to fake good diving judgement in people who might otherwise lack it. Could you imagine the cost and wasted time of courts crammed with people charged with poor driving judgement? which police would have to prove to meet even the low test of ‘the balance of probabilities’, much less that of ‘beyond reasonable doubt? Such charges would be laid in only the most egregious, easily proven cases.
On the other hand, being deemed guilty on site by a traffic cop citing a Lidar of exceeding some rather arbitrary number saves court costs and implemented the right way can be quite lucrative (especially in jurisdictions with traffic light cameras). The right of an accused to argue they were still exercising good driving judgement although exceeding the speed limit is naturally forbidden.
I believe there are plenty of open, straight sections of highway one could drive at even 200 km/h without hugely increasing the risk of an accident. There are also sections of 70 km/h road you would be nuts to drive at that speed when deer are out or in blowing snow. Other factors that determine speed limits are people’s apprehension that they or their kids would be at heightened risk walking along their street, complaints of neighborhood noise or increased greenhouse gas emissions and these do have merit in specific circumstances.
Metro Transit being what it is, I believe cars are essential for many people to get around in HRM, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. Roads have always more dangerous places than living rooms. That’s just life and it’s not going to change. Forcing down speed limits to reduce accidents a little more (as based on curious statistics) is just going cause further aggravation IMHO. That rarely leads to good driving judgement.
In my experience most NS people drive 10-20 km/h over speed limit on the highways and nearly all of them (and everyone nearby) survive almost all the time. These are people voting with their accelerator – literally road democracy in action. Whatever the official speed limit, I consider that the true road speed.
The importance of procedural fairness at HRM Council and Community Council is buttressed by a December 20, 2016 decision of Nova Scotia Supreme Court.
A property owner, and well known heritage advocate, sought a variance to allow her to build a shed and the abutting property owner opposed her application on the grounds the shed would block a window on his building. Prior to the community council hearing his lawyer had written to request a postponement as the lawyer would be out of the country on vacation. The owner then appeared at the hearing but the community council ignored the request for delay and quickly granted the variance.
Part of the judgement reads :
” Lastly, but importantly, in my view, the Chair’s decision to proceed
with the matter is woefully lacking in explanation or reasons. I am
certainly not suggesting that a detailed legal analysis, considering all
the factors of Igbinosun, would have been expected in such
circumstances. Even so, it is completely unclear to me why the Chair
felt that the matter should go ahead that day. He appears to have
simply deferred the question to Councillor Mason. The Chair’s
reasons are unsaid and unexplained.
In all of the circumstances, I find that the applicant was denied procedural
fairness in Council’s decision to proceed with the hearing on August 3, 2016. As a
result, I am quashing the decision reached by Council on August 3, 2016 relating
to the variance approval for 1597 Dresden Row, Halifax. The matter is returned to
Council for rehearing/reconsideration. ”
This is a rare case where a property owner in HRM was prepared to spend the money to obtain the fair hearing that he was was owed.
And the decision may well affect another matter which was before the Appeals Committee on October 6 2016 where a HRM Senior Solicitor asked that the hearing be postponed because a representative of the property was not present. The Committee ignored the request, discussed the matter and then denied the appeal against an order regarding unsightly premises.
http://www.halifax.ca/boardscom/SCappeals/170112asc-agenda.php Item 4.1.1
The issue is back before the committee on January 12.
I would like to ask Chief Blais whether the intelligence gathered by randomly stopping and questioning citizens without probable cause to believe they have done anything illegal is worth the resentment it creates within minority communities that we now know are—for whatever reason—subject to these intrusions at vastly higher rates. Why not just stop doing this? Wouldn’t that improve respect for your officers and reduce a major source of irritation aimed at them?
Thank you, Tim, for focusing on this issue.
Why not let police weigh in, anonymously, to avoid reprisals on what they think about the situation?
If Tim wants to do real journalism letting officers speak anonymously about this issue would be huge.
The practice of slowing down for a green light because it might soon turn green flourishes in Nova Scotia. Reducing speed limits to the unreasonably low numbers favoured by the car-hating bike and pedestrian lobby will make us less safe and lead to more collisions. That’s because some drivers — the I-slow-down-for-green lights brigade — will actually obey them, while reasonable people will continue to drive at reasonable speeds. This will increase the range of speeds actually driven, and that can only lead to problems.
Not once in the Examiners’ voluminous accounts of pedestrian-car collisions have I seen “excessive speed” listed as a factor. Excessive urban speeds is not a problem needing a solution; it’s a bunch of zealots who like to scold drivers.
It is not evident that Parker Barss Donham is a member of ITE (Canadian Institute of Transportation Engineers) based on a quick web search. If we accept that as a fact his comments should not be seriously considered. According to PBD and his speedy advice we have three groups of drivers in Nova Scotia.
2 Reasonable people driving at reasonable speeds (speeders)
3 Parker Barsss Donham
If we have a moratorium and an investigation by bodies who stated purpose is to discover and fight racism, then racism will be discovered. In any case, if you accept racism as a first cause of every racial disparity then there will always be a way to explain why racism is the cause. It’s literally “the [white] devil did it”.
Ending police checks will only make black communities more dangerous or perceived to be more dangerous and cause more white flight / gentrification.
should read “racism as the first cause”
Who invites someone to dinner and then makes them watch four hours of TV?
Where I’m driving (Hammonds Plains to E. Passage) we are all routinely 10 km/hr over the limit in residential areas unless traffic is heavy. Dropping the limit would be initially annoying but hey if it makes things safer, why not? Of course, if the level of enforcement remains what it is now we will just creep back up over the limit.
It is all 40 km/hr up my way within municipal limits, except for rural-ish areas on the outskirts where it is 50.
No need to officially lower the speed limit in Halifax, since everyone already seems to drive 10+ km below the speed limit.
Can we add a minimum speed instead?
Being from New Brunswick I find all Nova Scotia drivers slowpokes. But when I cross the bridge into Quebec, it is me getting tailgated and having my doors blown off.
Agreed. Driving too slowly is dangerous, and in my personal experience, extra slow drivers tend to be unpredictable, turning without signalling, slowing down for green traffic lights in anticipation of them turning amber, and frustrating the drivers around them to the point where I’ve seen people take risks to avoid being stuck behind them. Speed limits are useful within reason, but the standards were developed at a time when automotive technology wasn’t what it is today, a time before anti-lock brakes and such. They’re also not consistent, different cars and different drivers behave differently under different speeds.
I think a limit of 40 might make sense on Spring Garden Road, for example, but will make no sense in other places. The current limit of 50 is adequate as a general guide, and drivers should adjust their speeds according to conditions, number of pedestrians in the area, traffic density, and so on.
How precisely does someone driving slowly present a danger to anyone else? The notion that driving ought to be an always-predictable and frustration-free experience for the most aggressive and anti-social among us seems to me far more hazardous to everyone, and is, here in Maine anyway, much more common than what we used to call Sunday drivers (before driving slow became a crime against humanity). Given the horrific regularity of walking people who are struck by people in automobiles in your city, I’d venture a lot less confidence and entitlement among Halifax drivers is called for. But it probably won’t be, because cars.
Here, here. I haven’t encountered any dangerously slow drivers when I drive. If anything, I’m appalled by how common Nova Scotia drivers speed along our highways and on residential streets. Entitlement, indeed.