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6. Steps for further action

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The OHRC agrees with and supports the recommendations laid out by the York University researchers. Specifically, the OPS should develop and implement solutions to address the anomalies of disproportionately high incidences of police stops of racialized groups. 

However, the main line of response of the Ottawa Police Service so far has been to deny the presence of racial profiling. We are concerned that time and effort may be spent to debate the implications of the severe racial disproportions uncovered rather than in efforts to proactively identify and eliminate discriminatory police practices that are likely causing them.

To take steps towards improving relations between these communities and the police, the heads of the OPS will need to show leadership and commit to combatting racial profiling as part of a comprehensive strategy. This includes adopting the recommendations set out in the report.

6.1. Re-conceptualizing community policing

Current community policing models, while well intentioned, may lead to aggressive tactics, with neighbourhoods with higher proportions of racialized groups being subject to a greater degree of scrutiny and crime enforcement by police officers. These practices may amount to racial profiling and decrease trust between police and the racialized and Indigenous communities they serve. Instead, the OPS and OPSB should consider models of policing that are preventative and foster police integration in the community. The OPS and the OPSB must reflect on how standardized practices such as police deployment techniques, intelligence-gathering, traffic stops, street checks and everyday police work may be creating barriers based on race and can be structured differently when dealing with marginalized communities.

Preventative approaches to policing could include more foot patrols and integrating officers locally through neighbourhood detachments. Building trust between the OPS and racialized and Indigenous communities must be a central component of any strategy to combat systemic racial profiling. Engagement with these groups has to go beyond fundraisers, athletic tournaments and other social events. Rather, a new approach to community policing should involve an ongoing, frequent and meaningful dialogue between officers specifically attached to specific areas and the residents who live in them.[64] In this way, crime prevention would be centered around partnership with the community and shared goals.

Further, in addition to having an appreciation of the culture and diversity of racialized and Indigenous groups, the OPS should recruit more racialized and Indigenous officers. The OPS officers who are themselves from traditionally marginalized groups must be a part of community policing.

6.2. Training

To heighten understanding of the nuances and various manifestations of racial profiling, training police officers is critical. However, training in isolation from other initiatives is unlikely to succeed in fostering a non-discriminatory environment. Training is not a replacement for thoughtful concrete action.

Racial profiling training should, among other things:

  • Educate officers on the history of stereotyping and racism against racialized
    and Indigenous groups
  • Clarify implicit and explicit officer bias and systemic racial profiling 
  • Involve local racialized and marginalized communities in design, delivery and evaluation, including identifying relevant racial profiling scenarios
  • Explain that racial profiling violates the Human Rights CodeCharter of Rights and Freedoms and Police Services Act with references to relevant case law
  • Communicate that racial profiling is unacceptable and will result in disciplinary penalties, up to and including dismissal
  • Incorporate role-play and scenario-driven learning modules to improve “street-level application and articulation,”[65] including scenarios dealing with suspect selection, detention, searches, arrests, immigration enforcement, use of force and conflict de-escalation
  • Be integrated into other training where it is particularly relevant, such as training on the OPS racial profiling policy.

6.3. Monitoring and accountability

To prevent discrimination in policing, there must be accountability throughout the system and ongoing monitoring. From a human rights perspective, it is not acceptable for an organization to choose to remain unaware of systemic discrimination or fail to act when it learns of a problem.

We acknowledge that the OPS has engaged in various activities to address discrimination and develop good relationships with communities. However, more must be done to focus specifically on racial profiling. The OPS has a responsibility to make sure it is not knowingly or unconsciously engaging in systemic discrimination. This takes vigilance and willingness to monitor and review numerical data, policies, practices and decision-making processes and organizational culture. Many strategies for systemic human rights change in policing can be found in the OHRC’s guide, Human rights and policing: Creating and sustaining organizational change.

The OPS must adopt human resource policies and practices that would allow for monitoring, evaluation and progressive performance management to explicitly look at human rights-related behaviour and activity. The OPS must also put in place procedures so that officers are disciplined, up to and including dismissal, when their behaviour is consistent with racial profiling. Such procedures must provide opportunities for the OPS to determine whether non-discriminatory explanations are applicable.   

The OPS must review its police complaints procedures to make sure they are accessible to members of racialized community groups and Indigenous peoples, including youth.[66]

The OPSB must mandate the permanent collection of stop data as a method of monitoring the OPS’s policy on racial profiling. This data collection and retention would involve not only vehicle stops, but also human rights-based data on all pedestrian stops, as well as searches, arrests, use of force incidents, and interactions where police officers ask about immigration status or conduct immigration status checks.

This data should be standardized, disaggregated, tabulated and publicly reported. The purpose of data collection is not to gather intelligence, but to identify, monitor and address discrimination and, ultimately, increase community trust. The data should be housed separately from intelligence or investigative data and not be accessed for these purposes. Data should also be collected in a manner consistent with Count me in!, the OHRC’s guide to collecting human rights-based data.[67]

Data collection on the behaviour of individual officers would ultimately provide an indicator of who may be engaging in biased policing in stops, searches and arrests, and will be useful for accountability purposes.

The OPSB must establish an independent monitoring committee to look at the OPS’s compliance with its policy on racial profiling, and evaluate the OPS’s progress as a measure over time. The committee must pay special attention to systemic racial profiling, and not just individual officer bias. Clear and transparent information should be provided to the public on racial profiling.

In addition, in its submission to the Independent Review of Police Oversight Bodies, which will be released to the public shortly, the OHRC calls for the development of a proactive, independent monitoring and enforcement body to analyze and address systemic discrimination in policing.  

The Government of Ontario must establish independent, arms-length and public monitoring of police services and their police service boards related to systemic discrimination, through:

  • Periodic audits
  • Inspections of policies, procedures, training, databases and records, and
  • Public reporting.

To ensure, at the highest level, accountability for racial profiling and racial discrimination, independent monitoring of the OPS and the OPSB related to systemic racial profiling is necessary.

The Government of Ontario must require police services to establish permanent data collection and retention systems to record human rights based-data on all stops of civilians, searches, arrests, use of force incidents, and interactions where officers ask about immigration status or conduct immigration status checks. The data should be standardized, disaggregated, tabulated and publicly reported by each police service.

[64] See the study focused on OPS and racialized youth in Ottawa. Giwa, et al., supra note 10 at 239.

[65] Toronto Police Service, The Police and Community Engagement Review (The PACER Report)
Phase II – Internal Report and Recommendations (2013) at 14 online: Toronto Police Service [PACER Report]

[66] Giwa, supra note 10.

[67] Ontario Human Rights Commission, Count me In! Collecting human rights-based data (2009), online: Ontario Human Rights Commission

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