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Newly released numbers point to racial profiling by Halifax police
New data shows visible minorities are overrepresented in the number of people being stopped by Halifax police in so-called street checks. Close to 20 per cent of people being street checked are visible minorities.
The data was collected from 2005 to 2016. Over that 11-year span, nearly 37,000 individuals were street checked, some on multiple occasions. Of those, 4,100 people - or 11.08 per cent - were identified as black, in a community with a black population of about four per cent.
"When an officer feels there is some level of suspicion or something going on, they then record that observation or interaction in what we call a street check form,” says the Deputy Chief of Halifax Police Bill Moore. “It doesn't mean there is any type of criminality; it normally is location or time of day specific."
The statistics don’t come as a surprise to Halifax resident Michael Earle.
"Definitely I’ve been like questioned and looked at differently before; I’m not surprised at all," says Earle.
On Monday, the Halifax Board of Police Commissioners held a special meeting to discuss the findings.
The HRP’s research coordinator say this is the first time significant research has been done into street checks by Halifax police.
"Ultimately, the take away here is that there is an issue, there is a disproportionality in the data, there's no way you can chop it up where it entirely erases itself, and we want to understand what's behind that," says Dr. Chris Giacomantonio.
Giacmantonio says the number of people checked who have prior contact with police but don't have prior charges seems to be a substantial proportion of this group.
He says more research will be done to judge whether street checks actually improve the outcomes police are looking for.
"If there is something that is contributing, either by policy or by the way our officers are actually going about their work, that contributes to that disproportionality, then we are certainly willing to look at that and change it," says Deputy Chief Moore.
One member of the police commission has suggested stopping the practice until more research is done.
"If we don't have kind of a heavy weighing that says this is really important that we do this, we can't get information without it,” says Sylvia Parris. “I think we should have stop and have a pause, whether it's a full moratorium or some other way.”
Legislation was recently passed in Ontario which bans police from gathering information arbitrarily, or based on a person's race or presence in a high crime neighbourhood.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Allan April