Halifax — Nova Scotia’s capital city cops have surpassed the basic ability to track down publicly intoxicated people, and are honing in on a much harder-to-identify group: people who simply rub them the wrong way.
“Any old cop can spot a drunk person and throw them in the tank for the night — but it takes real skill to pinpoint some guy whose face we just don’t like and to try to explain it away as a real punishable offence,” said Const. Debbie Pembroke. “That’s a whole different level of subtlety.”
On July 26, Halifax police arrested a 33-year-old man who had only consumed one drink, because he gave them the finger. The man, who was visiting from Alberta with his wife, was incarcerated for the night, supposedly for public intoxication.
“We made an example of that man, but there are a host of reasons someone could wind up on the cops’ bad list. Could be that we simply don’t like a guy’s look, or the cut of a girl’s jib. Could be that someone swears around one of us, or they’re not from around here. Could be that we went to high school with them and they bullied us,” Pembroke went on. “Technically none of these are criminal offences, so sometimes it’s hard to remember that we can lock a person up for these behaviours.
“But we can — it’s all part of the job I love so much,” she added, tapping her badge.
Halifax lawyer Warren Teed said police are taking their power too far, escalating many situations that should be de-escalated.
“The problem is police have taken the Liquor Control Act and started using it and other legal documents to arbitrarily punish people they don’t like or who just have it coming in some way. I mean, think of it — in the first half of the year police have fined, what 1,153 people for public intoxication in our busy, bar-filled downtown? What’s next? –” Teed then trailed off as an officer wound his arms behind his back and cuffed him.
“What’s next is that you’ll have a night in a cell to dry out and think about what you’ve done,” interrupted the officer. “Maybe next time you won’t go around slandering the police to reporters.”
Const. Pembroke said, from now on, police will be on the lookout for the following people who deserve whatever fate befalls them:
- People who somehow just look like criminals
- People who have something to prove
- Anyone who has a chip on their shoulder
- Anyone with past run-ins with the law
- Anyone who has a negative view of authority
- People who don’t seem to have a healthy fear of police
- Anyone who exhibits signs of independent thought
- People who state their rights or question police rationale
- People who get under the cops’ skin for any reason