October 20th, 2020

Report clearing N.S. police of wrongdoing in arrest of Black woman flawed: observer


By Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press on October 9, 2020.

A consultant hired by Nova Scotia's police watchdog to advise on potential racial bias has disagreed with its findings clearing officers of wrongdoing in the case of a Black woman injured during her arrest. Santina Rao heads from provincial court in Halifax on Wednesday, February 19, 2020. Rao has been charged with assaulting a peace officer, causing a disturbance and resisting arrest after being arrested at a local Walmart. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

HALIFAX – A consultant hired by Nova Scotia’s police watchdog disagrees with the agency’s decision to clear two officers of wrongdoing in the case of a Black woman injured during an arrest.

Tony Smith, who is Black, says he was hired by the agency, called the Serious Incident Response Team, to provide advice during its investigation into the Jan. 15 arrest of Santina Rao.

“I don’t agree with it,” Smith, 60, said in an interview Friday, regarding the report’s conclusions. “I see a lot of inconsistencies within the various police officers’ statements.”

Rao suffered a broken wrist and a concussion after her arrest in a Walmart, prompting the watchdog’s investigation.

Smith was a commissioner during the public inquiry into abuse at the Nova Scotia Home for Colored Children, and he’s recently been appointed to a task force examining systemic racism in the province’s justice system.

He said he had pressed investigators to obtain video from Walmart of what had occurred, and said he believes additional video evidence could have been gathered.

Smith said he was not invited to continue advising the investigation after the agency’s acting director, Pat Curran, departed and was replaced by a returning Felix Cacchione. The consultant said he saw the final report after it was published earlier this week.

Smith said he couldn’t provide all the details of his concerns due to confidentiality rules, but said there was information of alleged prior racism involving one of the arresting officers. That information should have been pursued, he said.

Cacchione said in an interview he respects Smith’s right to disagree, but said he stands by the investigators’ conclusions. He said there were several factors preventing Smith from seeing “the totality of the evidence.”

Rao had alleged she was struck in the face by one officer and later alleged she was a victim of racial profiling.

The summary of findings released by the watchdog agency earlier this week states Rao was agitated when approached by a Halifax officer, who was responding to a shoplifting complaint.

When Rao was questioned about the contents of her stroller, she became more upset, accused the officer of being racist and started yelling when a second officer arrived, the report said.

The investigation concluded both officers tried to de-escalate the situation before Rao was warned she could be arrested for causing a disturbance.

When Rao walked toward a store employee, the second officer grabbed her by the arm and pulled her to the floor, the report said. A cellphone video of the incident shows police wrestling Rao to the floor as she protests.

While on the ground, she scratched an officer’s face, drawing blood, and then struck him in the groin. The officer responded by hitting her in the face, the report said. It concluded the officers’ actions were reasonable.

In July, the Crown dropped all charges against Rao, including disturbing the peace, resisting arrest and assaulting an officer.

Rao has said she was accused of shoplifting because she had placed $6.50 worth of produce in the bottom rack of the stroller, which she said is common for mothers who already have their hands full with excited children.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 9, 2020.

Share this story:

18
Subscribe
Notify of
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments


0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x