In relation to the Feb. 17 Facebook post by John Wesley Chisholm, we first want to thank Mr. Chisholm for shining a light on a larger societal issue and the public for their input on both his post and our social media sites. We believe that out of this incident positive discussion and change can come.
We also want to provide an update on the preliminary review of the incident which is being led by Supt. Sean Auld, Divisional Commander for Halifax Peninsula and the officer responsible for policing and public safety in the downtown core. Our review is continuing and we’ll provide further updates as they’re available.
Supt. Auld had a face-to-face meeting with Mr. Chisholm this afternoon at the Carleton. The bar owner joined in this conversation. We believe it was a very positive conversation where Supt. Auld and Mr. Chisholm discussed the culture of over-consumption of alcohol and the related violence in our community.
Supt. Auld also contacted the patron who was involved in the altercation. The patron stated that he didn’t sustain any injuries and doesn’t wish to lay charges in relation to this incident. His female friend who was mentioned in Mr. Chisholm’s post has also declined to lay charges. In assaults that do not involve bodily harm (Section 266 of the Criminal Code of Canada), police do not normally proceed with charges without the victim’s cooperation in the investigation, including willingness to provide a statement and attend court. Exceptions to this are cases involving a person in a position of authority over the victim (e.g. coach, teacher, supervisor, etc.), a vulnerable victim (e.g. children, elderly, people with diminished mental abilities, etc.) and domestic assaults for which police are compelled under provincial legislation, the Domestic Violence Intervention Act, to lay a charge regardless of the victim’s wishes. We do lay charges in assaults causing bodily harm (Sections 267 and 268) because a victim cannot consent to significant injuries.
Supt. Auld has also reached out to the responding officers. He’ll be meeting with them when they are first working again to review the call. This meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 21. It’s important to allow the officers to provide their account of the incident before coming to any conclusions regarding their actions.
In relation to some of the other matters raised in Mr. Chisholm’s post, the preliminary review has found the following:
- Police response time: Police received only one call in relation to this incident. It was a 9-1-1 call received from the Carleton’s bar staff at 11:45 p.m. on Feb. 16. Two patrol officers were dispatched at 11:47 p.m. and were both on scene at 11:53 p.m.
- Officers’ names: Officers are required by policy to provide their full name to the public and an email has been sent to all staff today as a reminder of this policy. It’s unclear without speaking with the male officer as to whether he provided his full name. The female officer provided her business card as Mr. Chisholm indicated in his post.
- Statements from witnesses: In cases where victims are not willing to proceed with charges, it is not uncommon for police to take witnesses’ names and contact information for later follow-up rather than taking a police statement. In the early morning hours of Sunday when officers documented their report of this incident, Mr. Chisholm’s account of the situation was included as were his name and contact information. This would allow police to follow-up with him should the patron in the altercation change his mind regarding charges.
We agree with Mr. Chisholm that this incident is symptomatic of a larger societal issue regarding the over-consumption of alcohol and the related violence in our community. Halifax Regional Police has been using a multi-faceted approach to deal with this issue, including:
- Downtown Safety Strategy: We use targeted patrols of the downtown Halifax bar district between midnight and 5 a.m. from Thursday to Saturday, and on Sundays of a long weekend. This initiative has resulted in a 20 per cent reduction in assaults in the downtown core.
- Patron Accountability Safety and Security (PASS) Program: Launched by the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia in September 2011, the program is intended to curb alcohol-fuelled issues and violence currently attached to the bar industry in Halifax. Bars and clubs share a database of people who have been banned from establishments due to problem behaviour. Sharing information enables bar owners to enforce strict rules and eventually eliminate banned individuals from gaining access to their establishments.
- Liquor Enforcement Unit: We have a dedicated unit targeting liquor related offences in the downtown core, including public intoxication, underage drinking, open liquor.
- Beat Program: Numerous dedicated patrol officers walking beats in the downtown core who can be redeployed to hot spots as required.
- Bar Hours: Lobbying government to change the policy of staggered bar hours; our position is that bars are open too late (cabarets are open until 4 a.m. with liquor service stopping at 3:30 a.m.) and that there is a correlation between alcohol consumption and violence and quality-of-life issues in our community the later bars are open.
- Other Enhancements: Successfully lobbied for the elimination of power hours/dollar drinks, and for the opening of taxi zones for late night hours from Thursday through Saturday. Taxi stand locations were changed to better meet the needs of patrons.
- On-going Strategic Meetings: HRP management is committed to meeting all community stakeholders regarding this topic. Chief Jean-Michel Blais and Supt. Auld have already met with the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia and public health officials. In the coming weeks, they will meet with representatives of the taxi industry.
Regardless of these in-roads, the over-consumption of alcohol is a significant issue in our community that needs much attention. We’re documenting all of the comments on social media and those received via email and will be compiling them for Supt. Auld’s review. We’re also exploring ways to engage citizens to work in collaboration with police on this issue. In the interim, citizens may post on our social media sites or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We welcome further public input on this subject. Community members have had discussions of this nature in the past but we must mobilize community involvement to effect real and lasting change.