Nova Scotia

Police review board calls for 2-week suspension of Halifax officer who arrested couple in park

The Nova Scotia Police Review Board has ruled that a Halifax officer who stopped a couple for being in a city park after hours should be suspended without pay for two weeks.

Adam LeRue and Kerry Morris filed a complaint against two Halifax officers, alleging race played a role when LeRue — who is Black — was arrested and jailed after the couple parked their vehicle to eat pizza and make a phone call in 2018.

In a 2021 decision, the board found that Const. Kenneth O’Brien wasn’t motivated by race but failed to exercise discretion and de-escalate the situation when he demanded ID, arrested the couple and conducted a full vehicle search.

LeRue was held overnight in the Halifax police lockup and charged with obstruction of justice — a charge later resolved through restorative justice.

The review board decision was upheld last year by the Nova Scotia Supreme Court, and lawyers for the couple and the police officer then provided the board with their arguments on what discipline should be applied.

In the ruling dated Saturday, the board concludes that in addition to the suspension, O’Brien should attend anger management training and provide a written apology to LeRue and Morris.

Kerry Morris, left, and Adam LeRue leave a Nova Scotia Police Review Board hearing in Halifax on July 15, 2020. (Michael Tutton/The Canadian Press)

The board considered O’Brien’s arguments that a reprimand and training would suffice, but concluded this wasn’t sufficient, noting the result of the “escalation” by the officer was that LeRue spent a night in jail.

“The board has come to the conclusion that … a simple reprimand is not the answer,” the three-person board said in their written decision.

The board had earlier concluded that O’Brien violated several articles of the provincial police code, including one that refers to “acting in a manner that is reasonably likely to bring discredit on the reputation of the police department.” It also said he breached a section that dictates arrests must be made with “good or sufficient cause.”

The board dismissed the allegations against the second officer, Const. Brent Woodworth, concluding he acted largely on O’Brien’s instructions and according to police training.

Lawyers for Woodworth and O’Brien had argued that the case was about LeRue and Morris’s failure to answer simple questions and obey police commands rather than about alleged systemic racism in the police department.

However, the couple’s lawyers successfully argued before the board that the offence would not usually even warrant a ticket. The board found that O’Brien had likely been angered by the couple’s refusal to show ID, which the board said led the officer to “stubbornly and unnecessarily” exercise what he saw as his authority.

Jason Cooke, a lawyer who represents LeRue and Morris, said in an email that the parties can appeal the decision, but added it is unlikely the couple will do so.

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