A Nova Scotia Supreme Court justice has upheld a decision finding a Halifax Regional Police officer breached his code of conduct during a 2018 arrest.
Constables Kenneth O’Brien and Brent Woodworth arrested Adam LeRue and his partner Kerry Morris in February 2018.
The officers first threatened to ticket the couple, sitting in their car with a pizza, for being in a park after hours. When LeRue refused to provide identification, the officers escalated the situation and arrested both of them. They released Morris and held LeRue overnight.
LeRue and Morris filed a complaint against the officers, alleging “systemic discrimination,” “unlawful, wrongful imprisonment, arrest, detention,” and more. The police found the officers did nothing wrong.
The couple appealed that decision to the Nova Scotia Police Review Board. As the Halifax Examiner reported in June 2021, the board found O’Brien breached the code of conduct in “stubbornly and unnecessarily exercising what he saw was his authority.” The board dismissed the complaint against Woodworth.
Hoping to have the decision overturned, O’Brien filed for a judicial review in Nova Scotia Supreme Court.
Justice finds board decision ‘reasonable’
Justice Mona Lynch heard the case on Dec. 6, 2022. In a decision dated Dec. 29 and released on Tuesday, Lynch sided with the board and LeRue and Morris.
“Constable O’Brien submits that the Board’s merits decision is unintelligible, unjustified, and opaque. He accuses the Board of failing to engage in meaningful analysis,” Lynch wrote.
Lynch disagreed, writing that she could “clearly understand their reasoning process.”
“They noted that police officers have discretion, but the discretion must be exercised in a professional and reasonable manner. In the circumstances of Constable O’Brien’s encounter with Adam LeRue and Kerry Morris, they found that was not done. The Board outlined the decision points Constable O’Brien came to along the way, and the instances where Constable O’Brien exercised his discretion in a manner to escalate rather than de-escalate the situation,” Lynch wrote.
“The Board’s decision is not unintelligible, unjustified, or opaque. Their reasoning process is clear. The merits decision of the Board is reasonable.”
Lynch dismissed the motion for judicial review.
In its decision in 2021, the board wrote that it would accept oral or written submissions on a penalty for O’Brien. It has yet to render a decision on that penalty, which can include dismissal, suspension, fines, or training.