July 20, 2024
Avoiding causing offence is a bad reason for the OPP to withhold crime stats
Building trust with communities — especially racial minority communities — should start with transparent, public information about who police are interacting with and how.
Building trust with communities — especially racial minority communities — should start with transparent, public information about who police are interacting with and how.

People already have a complicated relationship with police. Gratitude, tension, distrust, support, anger, frustration, sympathy, fear, relief, dread, admiration, disgust — the combination of feelings an individual holds about officers of the law depends on the person’s history with law enforcement, as well as with the Hollywood movies they watch and the political commentary they take in. Sorting out those feelings just got even more complicated in Ontario, where at the same time that Toronto police officers are getting ready to begin tracking and reporting the race of citizens during certain interactions, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) has implemented a new policy of not disclosing the gender of victims or suspected perpetrators of crime.

The point of the race-data reporting in Toronto, according to a police spokesperson, is to expose and “eliminate potential systemic racism” — a lofty goal that may exceed the reach of what is ultimately a small change in the information police jot down during incidents where they’ve used force or conducted a strip search. But it still seems like a constructive step since empirical data, rather than anecdotal evidence, is often the key component missing in conversations and research about police racial bias. Building trust with communities that currently have damaged relationships with police — especially racial minority communities — can only be helped by the existence of transparent, public information about who police are interacting with and how.

Interestingly, at least initially when the program begins in January, police will be recording their own impression of the race of the citizens they are dealing with; but they won’t be asking the citizens themselves. This could lead to inaccuracies, both purposeful and accidental. Yet it makes a good degree of sense since it’s hard to imagine much trust-building occurring if police had to demand “What race are you?” of every citizen they encountered in less than peaceful circumstances.

What if police get a person’s race wrong?

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See Also:

(1) Toronto wants to challenge Doug Ford’s council cut at Supreme Court

(2) Court dismisses legal challenge to Ontario’s pot shop lottery

(3) LCBO needs to give Ontario wineries a break

(4) This fall, Doug Ford is toxic

(5) Doug Ford government scrapping agency that rates films

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