Ottawa police release new policy on racial profiling
Published Tuesday, August 16, 2011 5:32PM EDT
The Ottawa Police Service has announced a new policy on racial profiling after months of consultation.
The policy, which came into effect June 27, defines racial profiling and contrasts it to "professional and reliable policing."
"Racial profiling in policing occurs when race, ethnicity, colour, place of origin, religion, or stereotypes. . . (are) used, consciously or unconsciously, to any degree in suspect selection or suspect treatment except when looking for a particular suspect who has committed an offence and who is identified, in part, by their race," reads the policy.
Examples of racial profiling by police include using traffic laws to pull over a member of a racialized group for criminal reasons and maintaining that a racialized person matches the description of a suspect when it's clear they don't.
"If I suspect someone is a drug dealer, pulling someone over for a traffic stop to conduct a drug investigation is not the way to go about doing things," said Staff Sgt. John Medeiros with the Ottawa police.
The city's police had recently been accused of racial profiling in the Stacy Bonds incident, as well as a June case where drug charges were withdrawn against two young men after the judge suggested the officer was racially profiling them.
"It seemed to be a blatant, flagrant abuse of their charter rights," said Leo Russomanno, defence lawyer for one of those men. "That's what the charter is there for - to prevent people from just being stopped on a whim."
Chad Aiken said he was discriminated against when he was pulled over while driving the family car in 2005.
He's been fighting his case in court for the last six years, and will soon go before a human rights tribunal.
"The Ottawa police. . . continue to bury their heads in the sand in the hopes that this insidious practice will go away," said Aikin's lawyer Margaret Parsons.
The policy says that racial profiling is largely an unconscious phenomenon and it's often not the intent of the officer to discriminate.
Policy draws praise from police accountability groups
"The Ottawa Police Service went beyond what is mandated and defined in Ontario as racial profiling, and is a leader in its approach," said Dr. David Tanovich, academic director of Windsor's Law Enforcement Accountability Project.
Ottawa police said the Ontario Human Rights Commission reviewed the policy and found it "at the leading edge of police efforts to combat and prevent racial profiling."
The policy says members of the Ottawa Police Service have a responsibility to follow the policy, and any member who sees or receives a complaint about racial profiling should notify a supervisor.
All sworn members of the Ottawa Police Service will receive mandatory training on the new policy by the fall of 2011.
Ottawa police said they'd been working on the draft policy with the community since a public consultation on Nov. 30, 2010, and will continue to examine it with a review in November of 2011.
With a report from CTV Ottawa's Kate Eggins