• By: Dan Donovan

Halifax Police Chief Dan Kinsella is proof a fish rots from the head down

On November 29, 2019, just two months ago, Halifax Regional Police Chief Dan Kinsella (pictured above) appeared at a resplendent podium emblazoned with the Halifax Police Coat of arms. He was dressed in police formal attire with a bunch of self-aggrandizing medals to give what spinmeisters described as an historic apology to acknowledge the systemic institutional racism, discrimination and street checks that have made black men, women, and children fearful of police in Halifax for generations.

Dripping with genuine insincerity, Kinsella said that “Far too many times we have failed you,” and “I acknowledge the community’s concerns that the actions of police have had a negative and deep impact on generations of the African Nova Scotian community and disproportionately on young black men.”

Kinsella apologized for the years of police street checks and other activities that disproportionately targeted people in the black community. He said that, he’s heard stories from adults and children who describe constant fear and doubt when doing day-to-day activities. “That is wrong,” he said. “Young men describe being racially profiled and stopped by police both while walking and driving, and in those instances feeling humiliated. That is wrong.”

Prior to the ‘apology’ a CBC News investigation on street checks showed that blacks were stopped regularly and harassed by the Halifax Police. This led to a criminologist’s review that confirmed black people were street checked at a rate six times higher than white people in the city, followed by Arab males and black females.

Kinsella waxed on saying that while decades of injustices cannot be undone, “we are committed to doing better moving forward” and that, I, as chief, will take personal responsibility and follow up in every case. This of course was a lie. His apology was theatre – and not real. Sort of like Justin Trudeau wearing Blackface. It was done without intent to mean anything to anyone.

Kinsella is proof that a fish rots from the head down. The lack of police leadership in forces across the country is a crisis. Whether its corruption and misogyny in the RCMP, racism and brutality by officers in the Ottawa and Toronto police services, or racist assaults against innocent Aboriginal people in Regina or minorities in Halifax, the real problem is a cadre of self-important, supercilious and haughty police chiefs across the country who say politically correct things to protect rogue police, but lack the courage to confront these reprobates, less it endanger their positions or careers.

Kinsella deserves special mention. The I, as chief, will take personal responsibility and follow up in every case Halifax Police Chief went into hiding for five days with no comment to the public after three of his ‘officers’ brutalized Santina Rao, a 23-year-old mother of two small children (and person of colour) at a Halifax Walmart last week.

Rao was confronted in the store by three Halifax Regional Police officers who accused her of ‘concealing merchandise and intending to shoplift’. Rao was shocked at the allegations and the aggressiveness of the ‘police’ surrounding her and her children (she was inside the store and had receipts for what she had purchased). In the video an officer assaults Rao, grabbing her by the arm. In fear (her two children were with her), she pushes back and is then viciously slammed to the ground and arrested. The event is best described by Dr. OmiSoore Dryden, Dalhousie University’s James R. Johnston Chair in Black Canadian Studies, who told the Chronicle Herald that, “This can’t be forgotten. This was a ridiculous, unnecessary, violent, racist, misogynist incident and it must be addressed.”

Kinsella emerged from his cocoon for a Police Services Board meeting last night and made a brief public statement to the press that further reinforced to everyone watching that he is about ten levels above his pay grade saying, “We will gather all the information in fairness to everyone involved and that’s what we have to pay attention to.” As he glared at the television camera it was obvious to all that the ‘everyone’ word he was referencing was meant for his police officers- because they are the victims here, of course.

The I, as chief, will take personal responsibility and follow up in every case Halifax Police Chief did not suspend them or address the issue of the traumatized victims, Ms. Rao and her children in any way. Kinsella represents exactly the problem with policing in Canada today. No leadership, no accountability and a dismissive tone and arrogance coming from so called police leaders that serves to undermine public confidence in the police and create cynicism about fairness in the justice system.

Kinsella is the consummate police careerist. Based on his conduct in this matter alone, his resume, which is posted on the Halifax Police website would seriously lead one to think that the hiring team who recruited him for the job of chief were sold a bag of fraudulent goods or are the butt of a really bad pig in poke joke.

Kinsella’s profile says that he is: “Committed to the philosophy and concept of community-based policing, Chief Kinsella recognizes that strong, sustained community partnerships are integral to effective crime prevention for a healthy and safe community. As part of that, he believes in maintaining a visible presence in the community and actively supporting local and city-wide events. Throughout his career, he has supported activities that help bridge relationships; celebrate and honour community builders; promote a shared dialogue, good citizenship, fairness and respect for each other”.

It would have been a great moment if he could have even tried to live up to any of his self-described narrative (which he approved and had posted on the police website) and instead of shirking his duties, pulled out his fancy podium and chest full of medals, manned up and acted like a real leader by suspending the officers involved in the incident pending the outcome of the investigation, or at least put them on administrative duties.

Instead, Kinsella doubled down on incompetence and passed the buck referring the matter to the Serious Incident Response Team, the Nova Scotia police watchdog, and then confirmed the officers involved in the arrest are still on regular duty. Bravo. The best descriptive I ‘ve heard that pretty well sums up Kinsella’s conduct in all of this is the well-known Nova Scotia adage, ‘He’s an arse’. It is succinct and to the point. Comes from the book, Have They No Shame. Fits perfectly.

Renowned Carleton criminologist Darryl Davies, who has worked on multiple police and court cases with the RCMP and police forces across Canada, says that “the Kinsella apology is useless and completely disingenuous unless he acts swiftly on this case. In fact, if he doesn’t act now, he will have no credibility. The officers involved should be subject to an immediate investigation and held accountable. If it turns out they did not de-escalate this and if, in fact, her version of events is true, they should be immediately fired otherwise Kinsella’s apology is meaningless —in fact, it’s a heartless joke.”

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Halifax Regional Police Chief Dan Kinsella, Constable Daniel Montsion, Vancouver Police Chief Adam Palmer, Ottawa Police Association President Matt Skof

Not surprisingly, Kinsella is a member of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police (CACP) which continues to fail this country in holding their own members to account when serious cases of police misconduct arise. There are too many cases to mention including the case of Ottawa Police Service officers Constable David Weir and Constable Daniel Montsion – who were involved in the arrest and killing of Ottawa resident Abdirahman Abdi, who was beaten to death on July 24, 2016. Constable Montsion has been charged with manslaughter and the case is currently before the courts. Despite a video seen by hundreds of thousands of citizens showing Montsion viciously beating Abdirahman, his lawyers now claim Abdirahman died of a heart attack. Montsion walked into the court on the first day of his trial with Ottawa Police Association (OPA) President Matt Skof, who despite facing criminal charges of his own with the OPP, refuses to resign from his job as president of the OPA and remains in that role representing all Ottawa Police officers. The rank and file have said nothing to have him removed, so it must be assumed they support him. Incredulously, Skof claimed that the Ottawa Police did nothing wrong in the Abdirahaman death within hours of it happening, even though he was not at the scene and had no other information. The minority community in Ottawa, like in Halifax, believes there is a serious problem with the police and racial profiling in the city.

There are multiple cases in Regina of their force officers abusing Indigenous people. Just last month in Vancouver the head of the Vancouver Police Chief Adam Palmer defended his officers’ actions in arresting and cuffing an Aboriginal man, 56-year-old Maxwell Johnson and his granddaughter when they were trying to open a saving account for his granddaughter. Johnson says he and his granddaughter provided government identification at the bank, including birth certificates and Indian Status Cards, but were told by a staff member that “one or two numbers didn’t add up” and that there were discrepancies with the status cards. He said the pair were asked to wait in an office. Vancouver police arrived about half an hour later, took them outside and handcuffed them. The two learned they were accused of attempting fraud but were then released at the scene.

In what can only be described as Kafkaesque, Palmer defended the ‘officers conduct’ and said they were responding to a report of a fraud in progress from a reputable source. Apparently, the source was the bank teller and manager who deemed it was suspicious that Johnson, an Indigenous man, had over 10k in his account. “The bank was adamant that a fraud had been committed and they were providing information that led our officers to believe that,” said Palmer.

The incident, like the others raises serious questions about the quality and judgement of senior police leadership across Canada, police recruiting, training and matters related to the legal authority to detain, arrest and use restraining devices such as handcuffs on citizens. Oh . . . and did I mention racism — it raises serious questions about racism.

Calvin Lawrence, a former Halifax cop and former RCMP constable who served for a total of 36 years is a Halifax native and the author of the book Black Cop. He says the reason why these types of racial conflicts keep happening is that the ingredients of the racial spontaneous combustion have never been removed. “The fires have simply been put out until the next conflict. To be clear the police took the oath. The police have a duty to do all that they can to verbally deescalate situations of police/citizen encounters.

 In an email to Ottawa Life Magazine regarding the Rao incident Lawrence says:

“To make an arrest for shoplifting without the person leaving the store goes along way to not being able to prove intent. A key indicator that the police and security screwed up is that according to the story she is not charged with shoplifting but causing a disturbance and resisting arrest. If that is the case then the store, security, and police are exposed to a civil lawsuit.

The police are now sitting behind frosted glass trying to put together an approach depending on what the real story is. That’s why they only put out a written statement as opposed to a police officer being questioned.”

Halifax Police Chief Dan Kinsella’s actions since this arrest show that he is deserving of the nomination for best supporting actor in a racist drama. The main award still goes to Prime Minister Justin ‘Blackface’ Trudeau who has set the bar so low with his race relations in Canada that that the country’s police forces appear to be following his act. The point is it’s all an ‘ACT’. The sad reality is that the black community in Halifax already knew this before Kinsella raised the curtain.

Click here to view The Chronical Herald video of Santina Rao's apprehension by Halifax police.