1. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Robert Devet over at the Nova Scotia Advocate observes that “the white response to Halifax carding stats is a disgrace.”

…[W]hite people in positions of power have come out in force to tell Black people that things aren’t all that bad, and that there is no hurry.

“I think it has to be looked at, but immediate is quite a reaction,” councillor and chair of the Halifax Board of Police Commissioners Steve Craig told the CBC when asked about the letter. “This is communications, information and understanding issue, It sometimes takes a lot of effort for people to understand.”

Black people are so uneducated, right? All them numbers is too hard on our poor lil heads. I mean, Shawna Hoyt is only a Q.C. with a Masters in Social Work, so I’m sure she struggles to understand simple math. Robert Wright definitely sounds inexperienced. It takes a lot of effort to acquire that white folk larnin though, and we all know Black people are lazy.

White people have to work SO HARD to convince Black people that our own obvious experiences of racism backed up by more than a decade of statistics aren’t real. It’s almost like these police stops are more traumatic for them, really, what with having to deal with letters making demands and everything. Dear me, those overemotional negroes are having “quite a reaction” to systemic racism (fans self.)

I wonder what the communications plan is for giving information to Black people about how our experiences being disproportionately stopped by the police are actually not a problem. Sure, there’s statistics showing you’re three times more likely to be stopped, but this picture book says police are friendly!

This looks like the face of a man who explains to Black people how Martin Luther King Jr. would have acted:


Thanks @mlagough for your talk today. Regardless of race or colour, we are our brothers and sisters keeper. #Sackville

— Steve Craig (@SteveCraigHRM) January 14, 2017

I guess he means keeper there more in that “custodial” sense.

Does he even get that “We Shall Overcome” is a Civil Rights protest song? Rights like, say, not being subject to racist policing practices? I think he just read the “hand in hand” bit and thought that Halifax would just be a better place if Black people could stop over-reacting and just hug the police after they stop and arrest/fine/beat us.

Seems like MLK had something to say about the immediacy of the struggle for justice:

…[W]hen you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness” — then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.

Man, I just know now that I wrote this Steve Craig is going to ask Lindell Smith about it on Monday.

Robert Devet continues:

Mayor Savage has his mind made up, and street checks are here to stay, he tells CTV.

“I think that the street checks are a tool that the police use, so if there’s something wrong with the tool, fix the tool – you don’t throw it out of the toolbox,” he said. “I think we take this very seriously. I mean, this should be a red flag for people to have a look at it.”

Can we pause here a second? Mayor Savage is actually saying that it’s better to try to fix existing “tools” rather than to throw them out? Like, say, if you already have a convention centre, you should maybe renovate it rather than build a whole new convention centre? Someone should tell the Halifax Regional Police that they don’t really need new equipment, they can just glue their old guns back together. After all, you don’t throw it out even if it’s totally busted!

Halifax Police cruisers under this philosophy.

Back to Devet:

Halifax police chief Jean-Michel Blais doesn’t even bother with the argument part. No, aint going to happen, he tells reporter Jacob Boon of the Coast.

“I don’t think so, at this point,” answered chief Jean-Michel Blais when asked about a moratorium. “We will continue to talk to people. This is a very important part of our police work.”

This from the same police department that earlier was ordered by the NSHRC to keep race statistics after it was found to have engaged in racial profiling in the Kirk Johnson case. And did not bother examining these stats for 11 years, as the letter points out.

“I don’t think anyone wants the politicians to reach across to tell our police enforcement this is what you can do or not do today, ” Premier Stephen McNeil, who also said he was “startled” by the findings, told the CBC.

Actually, telling the police what to do is exactly what politicians are supposed to do in cases like these.

Let’s look back at what Halifax Police had to say in 2015 when concerns were raised about street checks:

The practice is quite controversial in Toronto, where it is called “carding” and people, many black, have been stopped and asked for their ID.

In Halifax, police say they do stop people, but deputy chief Bill Moore says those stops are not based on race, rather suspicion.

“So it may be we saw individuals near a building late at night, stopped, talked to them and they said they didn’t work there and they said they were just walking by. That could be a street check,” he said.

Black people being outside, near things: suspicious. 

This example is actually what the police came up with when asked to justify checks based on “suspicious” behaviour: people walking by a building. Not even that they seemed to be drunk, or that they were yelling, or that they had a warrant or were stuffing drugs into their pockets or something. They literally said they were justified in stopping people because they were near a building. In a city. Where there are lots of buildings. This is apparently their best example of why these checks are so necessary and indispensable to police work.

Moore says they don’t get a lot complaints about street checks, but if someone is concerned, they should contact the department.

Update: Black community writes open letter complaining to the department. Police don’t change anything.

I think we stored your “evidence” here!

That was on August 24, 2015. In February 2015, The Coast  published an investigation showing that “Halifax Regional Police issued twice as many tickets and 30 per cent more summary charges for black residents of Halifax as white individuals in the same four-year period.”

On August 17, 2015, the Globe and Mail published a study that revealed Halifax Regional Police were conducting more stops per capita than larger cities like Toronto. At that time, police spokesperson Pierre Bourdages alleged that the practice in Halifax “allows officers to keep track and record their interactions with known criminals.”

Known criminals, or people standing near buildings. One and the same really.

Sounds like maybe they had enough “red flags” without waiting for someone to “contact the department” to start figuring out whether there was a problem.

Now in 2017, we’re supposed to believe, that despite having been ordered to keep statistics, and despite all the warning signs at least two years ago, the Halifax Police just had no idea there might be a problem:

When the numbers came in, quite frankly, I didn’t think they’d come in like that,” Moore told reporters after Monday’s meeting. “We probably should have been running these reports before. But now that we’ve ran them — now that we know — I expect you’re going to see a lot more work in this area.”

Are we not supposed to notice here that the police repeatedly denied race had anything to do with the stops, and that only criminals were having these interactions? And now they openly say they actually had no idea what was happening and had no information on which to base those claims? But sure, we should just take them at their word that this is “good police work.”

Also noted is the repeated rhetorical use of “in the middle of the night” or “late at night” when the police describe these stops, intended to imply that the people they are stopping just seem to be up to no good. Here’s an actual description from a Black man about being stopped:

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.

So in the day then. Not at night.

“My question would be, what would be the potential impact for officers not interacting with people in the middle of the night?“ said Moore. “I’m not trying to bolster our position on this, but let’s make good decisions based on good evidence.”

I guess we’ll be deprived of knowing how many people are walking by buildings and other such crucial interactions. And suddenly the same people who couldn’t be arsed to look at any data and accused the people they were stopping of being “known criminals” without any proof are lecturing other people — who are presenting them with studies — about the importance of evidence-based practices and studying the numbers.

I assume “good evidence” here means stuff not said by Black people. Or maybe the kind of evidence that isn’t missing from the police vaults?

I don’t know why I’m bothering, really. Eventually they’ll claim under pressure to be super serious about addressing street checks and they’ll roll out a “new” program called “boy howdy sunshine” or something which will be the exact same practice except they’ll describe it as “coming up to people standing near buildings and saying howdy. Just to spread a little sunshine to all those [black] people late at night.”

YouTube video

2. Halifax gets serious about “minority” issues

Never mind the street checks folks, there’s actual serious minority issues going on in this city and it is this white male Trump supporter at King’s college:

Kyril Wolfe is a 21-year-old fourth-year student from Wakefield, Mass. He’s studying at the University of King’s College, where, as a Trump supporter, he said he’s very much in the minority.

Also in the minority: students or faculty of colour. But the real issue here is, how will a white guy explain to his “friends of colour” and “friends who are gay” that he’s not racist?

It’s difficult because it strains relationships with people, particularly with students who are … students of colour or students who are LGBTQ.

It can strain the relationships. But I’ve also been a person who, everyone knows, I don’t hold discriminatory or derogatory opinions myself. I don’t go out there and berate people for anything. I just want people to do good sometimes … and I try to do good myself.

For the people who don’t know me, I’ve been called literally a racist, misogynist creep.

I sort of love his optimism here:

They’ll probably let this blow over after a few years.

I don’t really care if this particular guy voted for Trump. He wants to wear his “little Trump scarf,” he has that right. My issue is more with the choice of perspectives to report on. Can we not do the whole “white guys are the ones who are really oppressed” story here? You know who is having a hard time at King’s? Students of colour experiencing racism on campus. How about not normalizing Trump by acting like people who object to white supremacy or “pussy grabbing” are the real oppressors, and that experiencing people criticizing your support for Trump is more newsworthy than all the incidents of racism, homophobia, transphobia, etc. that students face on campus. As if systemic racism and being called racist for voting for a racist are equal ills.

Of all the serious issues of discrimination on campuses — reportedly increasing in the wake of Trump’s election — we’re going to act like the real story is how hard it is for white guys? Wow, a white guy doesn’t think he’s racist. Breaking news at 6. Never heard that viewpoint before.

Other possible stories: “White person interviewed about how hard it is that he can’t say the n-word when Black people get to”; “White Sobeys worker upset that people associate their workplace with racism. It’s just not fair!”; “We talked to one of the six per cent of white people stopped by the RCMP in the North Preston area to get their perspective”; “White reader complains about having to read about race all the time on Saturdays: an in-depth exploration”; “White person explains Martin Luther King Jr. to Black people: anger is not the answer!”

Like police checks, these perspectives are clearly necessary.

El Jones is a poet, journalist, professor, community advocate, and activist. Her work focuses on social justice issues such as feminism, prison abolition, anti-racism, and decolonization.

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  1. This article is written within a postmodern ontological framework wherein any significant disagreement with the author can be explained as invalid or racist, and any facts which detract from the narrative are themselves the result of racism, or simply invented by white people. This is ideological thinking at its finest, you pick a root cause and explain everything from that framework, and anyone who disagrees with you is an agent of the enemy and any inconvenient realities are the result of enemy action.

  2. Often times when someone complains that people are upset about their vocal electoral support of reactionary politicians like Trump what they’re actually complaining about is that people are reacting to their ongoing actions and behaviour, of which voting for Trump is just the most recent.

    Based on my experiences with some individuals as someone who up until somewhat recently worked on the King’s campus, I strongly suspect that is what is happening with this particularly outspoken King’s student.

  3. This rationalization and explanation and contextualizing of the racist attitude of the Halifax police department has got to stop.
    HRMPD is racist an always has been. We know that, they know that and it has been now clearly proven by their own stats. Just stop trying to explain that it isn’t, admit that the police department is systemically racist and just DEAL WITH IT.
    Look at the years the RCMP tried to deny the culture of mysongyny they had (and likely still have). Finally they admitted to it, have apologized and are paying huge sums of money. Different issue but same culture of denial.

    1. If you were Chief of Police in HRM what instructions would you issue to your officers ?
      Would you tell them to stop making notes of people they have observed ?
      Would you tell them to stop making notes of people they have spoken with but not cautioned ?
      Just what would you tell the men and women who police our city ?
      The chief decides how policing is carried out in his jurisdiction and the Mayor, the council.the Board of Police Commissioners cannot tell him how to fulfil his responsibilities.

  4. You and your mother don’t have much chance of being street checked because :

    ” 77% of entity records involved males,who comprise just over 48% of the municipal population according to census data……entity records involved a person between 15-24 years old, compared to approximately 14% of the municipal population in that age range. These data mirror the GO data, which show that 32% of the GOs resulting in charge involved individuals between 15-24, and 71%involved males ” …….and …..” As indicated at the beginning of this document, this is a preliminary analysis which raises many additional questions, and so any conclusions at this stage are provisional. ”