Racial pro­fil­ing com­plaint comes to end

Rights tri­bunal says 2010 and 2012 set­tle­ment agree­ments will stand

Ottawa Citizen - - CITY - DON BUT­LER

The On­tario Hu­man Rights Tri­bunal has closed the book on a com­plaint in­volv­ing an al­leged in­ci­dent of racial pro­fil­ing by Ot­tawa po­lice, dis­miss­ing ob­jec­tions from Chad Aiken, the man who filed the com­plaint eight years ago.

In a de­ci­sion dated May 24 but dis­trib­uted to the par­ties only this week, Les­lie Reaume, the tri­bunal’s vicechair, up­held a re­quest by the Ot­tawa Po­lice Ser­vices Board to end the case on the ba­sis of two set­tle­ment agree­ments reached in 2010 and 2012.

Aiken — who was driv­ing his mother’s Mercedes-Benz in 2005 when he was pulled over and roughed up by Ot­tawa po­lice, al­legedly be­cause he is black — had ar­gued that the 2012 set­tle­ment, in which Ot­tawa po­lice agreed to col­lect racial data dur­ing traf­fic stops for two years, is too limited to be ef­fec­tive.

He wanted the tri­bunal to in­cor­po­rate rec­om­men­da­tions made in a 2011 re­port by Scot Wort­ley, a Univer­sity of Toronto crim­i­nol­o­gist who had been re­tained as an ex­pert wit­ness on the col­lec­tion of racial data by po­lice.

Wort­ley’s re­port has never been made pub­lic, but Reaume sum­ma­rized its key rec­om­men­da­tions in her de­ci­sion. One was that Ot­tawa po­lice should es­tab­lish a per­ma­nent data col­lec­tion sys­tem to record in­for­ma­tion on both traf­fic and pedes­trian stops.

The 2012 set­tle­ment be­tween Ot­tawa po­lice and the On­tario Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion only re­quires po­lice to col­lect racial data from traf­fic stops. Ot­tawa po­lice an­nounced last week that will be­gin June 27.

Vir­ginia Nelder, a lawyer with the African Cana­dian Le­gal Clinic who rep­re­sents Aiken, said the need to in­clude pedes­trian stops is “very fully dis­cussed” in Wort­ley’s re­port.

“That’s our main con­cern,” she said. “If you limit the pro­ject to traf­fic stops, you’re miss­ing out on all of the young African Cana­dian men that are stopped on a daily ba­sis just walk­ing along the street.”

Un­der the terms of the 2012 set­tle­ment, Ot­tawa po­lice are re­quired to col­lect racial data for at least two years. That’s prob­lem­atic as well, Nelder said.

Dur­ing time-limited stud­ies, Wort­ley’s re­port says po­lice typ­i­cally may change their nor­mal ac­tiv­i­ties to avoid al­le­ga­tions of racial bias, then re­turn to nor­mal ac­tiv­i­ties when the study ends, she said.

Wort­ley’s re­port also rec­om­mended that po­lice man­agers should use “in­ter­nal bench­mark­ing tech­niques” to iden­tify and cor­rect, through re­train­ing and dis­ci­pline, of­fi­cers who might be en­gaged in racially bi­ased stop-and­search prac­tices.

But the 2012 agree­ment ex­plic­itly rules that out, say­ing the po­lice ser­vice’s board “will not rely on the race­based data it col­lects for the pur­pose of dis­ci­pline or per­for­mance eval­u­a­tion of its of­fi­cers.”

Wort­ley also rec­om­mended sup­ple­ment­ing the col­lec­tion of of­fi­cial po­lice data with pe­ri­odic sur­veys of the gen­eral pub­lic to col­lect and com­pare in­for­ma­tion on self-re­ported con­tacts with po­lice.

As well, po­lice should be sur­veyed to col­lect data on of­fi­cer morale and job sat­is­fac­tion, as well as on at­ti­tudes to­ward anti-racism pro­grams or poli­cies. All re­sults should be re­leased to the pub­lic on an an­nual or bian­nual ba­sis, Wort­ley’s re­port says.

None of those rec­om­men­da­tions ap­pears in the 2012 set­tle­ment. And in her May 24 de­ci­sion, Reaume was un­will­ing to amend the set­tle­ment agree­ment to in­clude them.

Aiken’s com­plaint “cre­ated an op­por­tu­nity for dia­logue, re­flec­tion and real change,” Reaume said, and it was the hu­man rights com­mis­sion’s role to en­sure that the data col­lec­tion pro­ject “serves the broader pub­lic in­ter­est.”

Reaume said there was “no rea­son­able prospect” that she would im­pose Wort­ley’s rec­om­men­da­tion that Ot­tawa po­lice should use in­ter­nal bench­mark­ing for the pur­poses of dis­ci­pline.

Nelder said Aiken’s con­cern goes far be­yond the 2005 in­ci­dent. “This is not the first time nor the last time that my client, un­for­tu­nately, has been racially pro­filed by the Ot­tawa po­lice. It hap­pens reg­u­larly to him and to his friends,” she said. “So it’s less about the in­ci­dent that hap­pened to my client and more about the sys­temic is­sue that he feels very strongly about and wants to ad­dress.”

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