Never Miss an Opportunity for Racial Profiling

I look over the Halifax Chronicle Herald and one photo stands out.  It’s a picture of Kayla Borden sitting in the NS Police Review Board appeal hearing room earlier this week, reading her notes on her case.  Just bear with me.

In 2020, Kayla Borden filed a complaint that she was racially profiled, and wrongfully arrested by police when pulled from her car and detained after midnight on July 28, 2020.  Five months later, an internal police investigation said there was no wrongdoing by police.  

Kyla Borden last December at the Police Review Board hearing (photo credit: Matthew Byard)

Yet Borden, aged 32 at the time, was stopped, surrounded by at least five to six police cars in a “take down” at Windmill Rd and Seapoint Rd in Dartmouth.  She had been driving home after visiting a cousin in Bedford.  Borden, who is Black, was arrested, handcuffed, then un-arrested and un-handcuffed within minutes of her car being stopped.  Two white policemen Jason Meisner and Scott Martin confronted her.  She didn’t see if their guns were drawn, but she was scared.  She recalled, “They yelled, ‘Put your hands on the steering wheel’ I was so scared wondering what was going on.”   

In the evidence she gave to support her complaint a year ago, Kayla Borden said she was asked by one of the policemen if she knew why she was being arrested.  One of them  told her, “We will see in in a minute.”  Didn’t they know why they arrested her?

One policeman told her she had been driving without her lights on; but Borden disagreed with him. She said her lights were on because in her vehicle, they went on automatically.   Another policeman told her the police had been on a high-speed chase looking for a ‘white guy in a Toyota’.  They also said they were looking for a dark-coloured car with no headlights.  Yet Borden is a Black woman, and drove a light grey Dodge Avenger.  

9 cops on a traffic take down

The startling fact is that at least nine policemen were involved in the Borden take-down.  Oct 18 2021 byard. The names of the nine constables are:  Stewart McCulley, Anil Rana, Sym Dewar, Jason Meisner, Scott Martin, Andrew Joudre, Jeffrey Pulsifer, Andrew Nicholson and Tanya Lambert. 

It all began when, Cst Stewart McCully said he spotted a black Pontiac, without a license plate and with lights off,  driven by  a white man in a black baseball cap  near Hammonds Plains Rd in Halifax.  The driver sped away when the officer pursued him. 

My notebook sketch of Cst. Martin testifying, Nov. 29, 2022

Why let a good opportunity for an arrest be wasted?

The cops pursued her because – given the “light” traffic as Cst Martin said Tuesday – and the paucity of cars on the road at the time, the police believed that Borden whom they pursued was the “guy” who had got away. Incidentally, that person was never found.  

While it was clear neither the car, nor she was the driver they sought, the police decided to charge her anyway with driving without her headlights on (a charge they later dropped), despite her denying it.  

Furthermore:  why let a good opportunity for an arrest on a slow night be wasted?

The other day I attended the hearing.  I listened to the evidence of Cst Scott Martin, the arresting officer.  Martin is a ten-year veteran of the Halifax Police.  He stuck to his story which was he always ’cuffed suspects when they were arrested “for everyone’s safety”—including officers’ safety. 

Asaf Rashid, Borden’s lawyer, asked Martin why he did not merely detain Borden instead of arresting her while waiting for McCulley to arrive on scene to corroborate if it was the same vehicle he had tried to pull over.  But Martin insisted there were  “ample grounds to make the arrest” based on Cst McCulley’s description over the police radio. Rashid went further “If it was a white person, they [the police] wouldn’t have immediately jumped to a conclusion, they would have reviewed the information they had to work, they would  have reviewed whatever characteristics were in the description. … the person would have been detained and let go instead of arrested.”   This question is the elephant in the room.

Constable Martin is 6’8″ tall — Kayla Borden is 5’7″

When Cst Scott Martin was asked how tall he was, and could he stand,  Martin replied he was six foot eight inches.  When he stood, everyone in the room could see the policeman was huge and powerfully built.  While clean shaven at the hearing, on the day he arrested Borden he said he had a full dark beard.  One can imagine how intimidating it would have been for Kayla Borden  (I guess her height at five foot seven) to be dragged out of her car and confronted by Martin. Wisely, Borden had offered no resistance.   

Asaf Rashid asked Cst Martin if he’d heard the term Driving While Black, did he know what that means? Martin said it was a Black person driving a vehicle, but “I don’t know – it’s not a term I use.” 

Martin was then asked about anti-Black racism training he’d received  or anything to do with racial profiling.  Though Martin said he had completed a course on hate and bias-free policing, and an education module called Journey to Change, he could not recall any examples.  “I don’t remember any specific examples from the course, it was a few years ago…”  

Now back to my first paragraph.  We can see Kayla Borden reading her notes, despite the fact she had already given her evidence more than a year ago.  I’d like to know why not one of the cops I saw had any notes of any kind.  The events of that night took place two and a half years ago.  I highly doubt anyone – let alone a police officer who interacts with  scores or even hundreds of people each year – could clearly remember events of July 28, 2020 .

Kayla Borden, and her lawyer Asaf Rashid. Second row from left: Cst Martin, Cst Meisner and police lawyer Andrew Gough. Gough represented Police Chief Kinsella, Nov. 28, 2022. (photo credit: Matthew Byard of the Halifax Examiner).

What’s the evidence that cops have better memories than the rest of us?

How can it be that police witnesses not only had no notes, they also admitted to forgetting details as it was so long ago. And that was accepted by the appeal panel. How can that be? Teachers are always begging students to write down exam dates; I as a former university professor implored students to take notes during lectures, medical doctors take notes on each patient’s drug prescriptions and condition  – but somehow the police must have better memories than all the rest of us.  

Kirk Johnson was stopped by Halifax police 28 times in 5 years

We know that’s not true.  Don’t the police have to make notes? Where are they?  In the late 1990s, North Preston’s own Kirk Johnson, a Black professional boxer, was stopped 28 times over 5 years in “routine” traffic stops. On April 12, 1998, Johnson was once again stopped while driving by Michael Sanford a Halifax police officer. He asked Johnson for his proof of insurance.   The policeman refused to look at Johnson’s insurance when it was proffered.  Sanford insisted Johnson (who drove a nice sports car with tinted windows) was driving without insurance and he impounded Johnson’s car.  Sanford told Johnson and his lawyer before the matter went to a NS Human Rights Board of Inquiry, “I’m a hundred percent sure. A thousand percent sure. If he had his insurance on him, I would have never took his car.”

When Racial Profiling backfires

Given Sanford was the “arresting officer” in the traffic stop, Johnson asked him to sign a piece of paper and write down his badge number.  Inadvertently Sanford had signed on the back of Johnson’s insurance registration paper.  

Perhaps Sanford should have taken notes.  And if he did – he didn’t review them. More likely he just lied. (By the way, Johnson won his now-famous Human Rights complaint and it led to the banning of the most obvious forms of racial profiling.)

Again– how can it be that cop after cop testifies with no notes in front of him (or her)?  We know the police have notebooks, and write some things down in them.  Can it be that the police lawyers don’t want their opponents to get hold of the notebooks and ask questions about details revealed inside? Can it be that the court and tribunals in this province are so lax, no one seems to care if police can actually back up their testimony? 

Kayla Borden’s police complaints appeal is not over.  Next up, Halifax Police Chief Dan Kinsella will be in the witness box, on January 5, 2023.  Halifax police lawyer Andrew Gough tried to the subpoena for Kinsella quashed – but as of now, testify he must. 

Featured Image: ‘Fons Americanus’, by Kara Walker at the Tate Modern, London UK (2019). Walker recreates the Queen Victoria Memorial near Buckingham Palace. Walker shows the violent atrocities committed by the British Empire. For more read here.

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