York professors conduct landmark study of race data collected by the Ottawa police
York Professors Lorne Foster and Les Jacobs and adjunct Professor Bobby Siu conducted a landmark study that disaggregated and analyzed two years of race data collected by the Ottawa police.
The comprehensive report on the findings from the Traffic Stop Race Data Collection Project (TSRDCP) was released at a media conference in Ottawa on Oct. 24.
Data for the study was collected as part of a settlement agreement between the Ottawa Police Services Board (OPSB) and the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC). The settlement agreement resulted from a human rights complaint filed by Chad Aiken, an 18-year old African Canadian youth alleging racial profiling by Ottawa police during a traffic stop while driving his mother’s Mercedes-Benz. The Ottawa Police Service (OPS) continues to collect the data beyond the two years required by the settlement.
The TSRDCP study represents the largest and most comprehensive undertaking of race-based data collection in Canadian policing history. A total of 81,902 records of traffic stops were examined. Each record included complete information on race, sex and age, along with complete information on police districts, reasons for traffic stops and outcomes.
The report shows that Middle Eastern and Black groups have proportionally higher incidents of traffic stops by police. Middle Eastern drivers were stopped 3.3 times and Black drivers were stopped 2.3 times their ratios in the driving population of Ottawa. The disaggregated race data in the study is prima facie evidence of problematic police-minority relations; and supports the call for the Ottawa Police Service to closely examine their policies and practices, and take action to address and prevent racial discrimination.
The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) noted, “the significant disproportion in traffic stops is consistent with racial profiling and sends a strong message that work against racial discrimination must now translate into action and accountability.”
Ottawa Police Services Board Chair Eli El-Chantiry called on the OPS to immediately implements the recommendations outlined in the report, including a multi-year action plan: “Our goal is to use the findings and recommendations of this study to strengthen the service the police provide to the community.”
While the Ottawa Police Service is credited for being the first major police service in Canada to collect data on such a scale, racialized communities and others are now calling for other municipal police services to follow suit, and for the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services to mandate race-based data collection by police services across Ontario.
The TSRDCP study is an example and template for how the collection of disaggregated race data can be used as a diagnostic tool to help police services, in concert with community stakeholders, set priorities for addressing the problem or perception of racial profiling in modern Canadian cities. The complete report and all supporting data can be found at http://bit.ly/2eCVzLA.