A Halifax Regional Police officer did nothing wrong during a 2019 arrest in which she used a Taser on a Black man on Quinpool Road, according to the provincial police review board.
Const. Nicole Green arrested Clinton Fraser for breach of the peace after an alleged collision in December 2019. Police and other drivers accused Fraser of hitting two vehicles, a Toyota Yaris and a construction truck. He denied hitting any vehicle. During a 40-minute interaction with officers, Fraser repeatedly got out of his truck to attempt to show officers there was no damage.
Green ticketed Fraser for an unsafe lane change. After Green handed him a ticket, he got out of his vehicle to further argue with the officers. Green claimed he was holding a pen and she thought he might assault officers. Three officers tackled Fraser to the ground, and then Green and a fourth officer used Tasers to subdue him.
Reporter Julia-Simone Rutgers posted a video of the end of the incident on Twitter that evening. HRP tried to spin the event with a news release the next morning. Police said Fraser would be charged with assaulting a police officer. He wasn’t.
Fraser complained about Green’s conduct, and HRP disciplined the officer. HRP found Green breached three subsections of the code of conduct for officers: “making an arrest without good or sufficient cause;” “using unnecessary force on or cruelly treating any prisoner or other person with whom the member may be brought into contact in the course of duty; and “unlawfully exercising authority as a member.”
HRP ordered Green to undertake de-escalation training and docked her eight hours pay. She appealed that decision, as the Halifax Examiner reported in 2021. A three-member panel of the Nova Scotia Police Review Board heard the case in May 2022.
Board sides with cop
In a decision dated Dec. 19, 2022 and published last week, the board sided with Green. Board chair Jean McKenna and members Peter Mancini and John Withrow wrote:
Cst. Green’s subjective perception at the point of arrest was reasonable, considering all that had occurred in the previous 40 minutes. It is objectively supported by the undisputed evidence of his conduct throughout and up to the point of arrest. She and the other officers had attempted de-escalation several times. While certainly one option was to once again attempt to calm him down, and convince him to leave, she had exercised such efforts throughout her contact with Mr. Fraser, and in fact had completed such an effort seconds before. Her perception of an imminent breach of the peace as she articulated it in her evidence, was subjectively and objectively reasonable. We therefore conclude that she had the lawful authority to arrest him for imminent breach of the peace, which became further supported by her belief that he was about to assault an officer. The arrest cannot be considered as being “without good or sufficient cause”, or an “unlawful exercise of authority”
The board accepted Green’s testimony about the pen, while noting it wasn’t recovered or entered into evidence. The officers’ use of force to take him down was warranted, the board wrote.
“There is no argument that Mr. Fraser was physically highly non-compliant with efforts to handcuff him; it took three officers to bring him down and handcuff him, even with the application of a Taser; he is very big and appears to be very powerful,” the board wrote.
“The video demonstrates resistance continuing to and through the use of a [conductive energy weapon]. The force used cannot be described as excessive in the circumstances.”
The all-white board addressed Fraser’s claims that he was treated differently because he’s Black.
“Mr. Fraser is a person of colour. His perception, at least in part, was and is, that his treatment was racially motivated. However, there is nothing in the evidence that shows any consideration of race by the officers involved,” the board wrote.
“He was unwilling to accept that his truck had contacted the Yaris and the construction truck, at the time of his interactions at the scene, and even in the course of the hearing, It was the totality of that conduct, that triggered the eventual confrontation and arrest.”
The board found there was no breach of the code of conduct, allowing Green’s appeal and overturning HRP’s internal discipline.