How diverse is your police force? After anti-racism protests, we analyze the makeup of B.C.’s policing

Above chart shows diversity data based upon the 2016 Census.

Good look at the diversity of British Columbia police forces:

As a growing number of protests in the U.S. and Canada call for reimagining how police are funded and structured, we wondered how closely B.C.’s various departments reflect the demographics of the people they serve.

We asked B.C.’s 12 municipal police agencies and the RCMP, which has jurisdiction in the rest of the province, how many of their officers identify as visible minorities and how many are women.

The significance of these numbers varies widely depending on who you ask.“Overall, I’d say it’s good to have these kinds of statistics. However, even if we made a lot of progress in terms of having RCMP and local city forces more reflective of the general population in B.C. in terms of proportions of visible minorities, I’m not sure how much actual change we could expect,” said Samir Gandesha, director of the institute for humanities at Simon Fraser University.

There needs to be a cultural shift within law enforcement, Gandesha argued, that addresses “deep-seated” inequities around racism and sexism. “Talking about the demographics, I think, is a great place to start, but there are some much harder questions.”

Protesters demanding a different type of policing have marched on local streets since the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, after a white officer knelt on the Black man’s neck for nearly nine minutes. Many local activists want the police to be “defunded,” a concept that would allocate some — or all — of hefty law-enforcement budgets to social workers or psychologists better equipped to respond to mental health calls.

For Sgt.-Maj. Sebastien Lavoie, a Black Mountie based in Surrey, the statistics mean the RCMP needs to find new, innovative ways to hire qualified officers from varied backgrounds, especially from communities in which recruitment has been challenging. The video of Floyd’s agonizing death was sickening to Lavoie, but he believes the vast majority of police officers are good people, and says sensitivity and cultural training of new recruits is “a million light years” ahead of when he went through the process 20 years ago.

“We do want to represent the society as best we can in terms of demographics,” said Lavoie, whose job is to advise rank-and-file members about decisions made by management, while also bringing officers’ concerns to the higher-ups.“So the challenge is how do we get the good candidates from those demographics coming to us? We want to get the quality and the equality. … For me the biggest focus has to be to reach out to the communities and bridge the gap and actually have people interested in policing in those communities.”

‘Not an overnight fix’

The RCMP polices large areas of the province, including parts of Metro Vancouver and most of rural B.C. It employs nearly three-quarters of B.C.’s 9,500 police. The RCMP says 18 per cent of its officers are visible minorities and another five per cent are Indigenous persons.

Those statistics come close to reflecting the demographics of a rural city like Prince George, where 24 per cent of the population identifies as one of those two groups, the census says, or in Kelowna, where the two groups comprise just 16 per cent of the population. But the statistics are out of whack for diverse cities such as Richmond, where visible minorities and Indigenous peoples represent 77 per cent of residents, or in Surrey, where they represent 61 per cent.
The Vancouver Police Department employs the second largest number of officers in B.C., and says 26 per cent of its 1,340 officers are visible minorities or Indigenous, which is one of the highest percentages in the province. However, the 2016 Census found twice that amount — 54 per cent — of Vancouver’s population identified as one of those two groups.

Vancouver police Chief Adam Palmer agreed it is important for his department to reflect the community, and suggested it is “on the path” towards that, but cautioned “it’s not an overnight fix.” He said each recruiting class today is far more diverse than the officers who are retiring, that his officers speak a combined 50 languages, and that a quarter of the force is female.“I think a lot of people would think that, ‘Oh, policing in Vancouver, it’s a bunch of six-foot-tall, 200-pound white guys running around,’ when that’s not the case,” Palmer said.

He added, though, that hiring cannot be focused on demographics alone. “Diversity is important, but it’s also important to get the right person, the right temperament and background and just the right personality and mindset to be a police officer.”

Palmer, who is also president of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, denied this week there is systematic racing in Canadian policing. His department, though, is falling under increasing scrutiny.Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart asked the province for a “comprehensive review” of policing in B.C., including investigating the “systemic racism and disproportionate violence” faced by Black and Indigenous peoples. Stewart, who chairs the police board, has also said he wants Vancouver police to end the practice of street checks, when people are randomly stopped and their identification often recorded, because the checks have disproportionately targeted Indigenous and Black people in his city.

On Thursday, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, the B.C. Union of Indian Chiefs and the Hogan’s Alley Society echoed calls for street checks to end, after alleging racist and other inappropriate behaviour by two Vancouver police officers.And Vancouver Coun. Pete Fry has introduced a motion asking council to support a “community-based crisis management strategy” that would send mental-health experts, rather than police, to help people in crisis.

Also this week, trustees with the Vancouver and Victoria school boards voted unanimously to review the use of police liaison officers, who often work with at-risk youth and sometimes coach sports teams.

‘Change in a radical way’

Meenakshi Mannoe, criminalization and policing campaigner with Pivot Legal Society, co-wrote a letter last week to B.C.’s attorney general and the RCMP’s B.C. commander, calling for immediate action to address issues such as the disproportionate policing of some groups and low-income communities.

Mannoe does not, though, believe the answer is hiring more Indigenous or visible-minority officers, but rather a defunding of law-enforcement budgets, with the money routed to areas that can “prevent a crisis,” such as housing, medical care, a safe drug supply, peer counselling and cultural programs.

“We are in a moment where people are really talking about change within the police in a radical way,” said Mannoe, a trained social worker.“If we address inequalities at their core, we wouldn’t need to over-police communities like the Downtown Eastside or communities with people who experience homelessness or use drugs.”

She rejects the argument that policing in B.C. is not as racist as south of the border and therefore doesn’t need a major rethink, pointing to several local police incidents involving visible minorities. In 2014, Tony Du, a schizophrenic man waving a piece of wood, was shot dead in a Vancouver intersection. And last December, police handcuffed an Indigenous man, Maxwell Johnson, and his 12-year-old granddaughter outside a Vancouver bank after tellers questioned the pair’s identification.

These high-profile incidents are not just happening in Vancouver, of course. This week, University of B.C. Okanagan nursing student Mona Wang sued the RCMP, alleging a Kelowna officer dragged her out of her apartment, kicked her in the stomach and shouted phrases like “stupid idiot” during a wellness check.

B.C.’s policing rules outdated: Minister

The province has not yet responded to Mannoe’s letter. But earlier this month, Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth promised to set up an all-party committee to modernize B.C.’s 45-year-old Police Act, “with a specific focus on systemic racism.” He added the “outdated” act is “out of step with our government’s approach” on issues including harm reduction and mental health.

Policing in B.C. is a patchwork quilt, with the RCMP taking up most of the fabric. Eleven municipal departments oversee 12 cities and communities, while the Transit Police patrols the SkyTrain, bus routes, the SeaBus and the West Coast Express.

After the two largest agencies, the RCMP and Vancouver, here is how the rest of the departments report on the combined percentage of visible minority and Indigenous officers they employ, based on statistics they supplied to Postmedia:

Transit Police: 31 per cent of officers are visible minorities or Indigenous, the highest percentage in B.C. It provided the most detailed breakdown of its officers’ ethnicities, which included three Indigenous and two Black officers.

New Westminster: 21 per cent of officers in a city where 42 per cent of the population identifies as visible minority or Indigenous. The agency is trying to recruit more diverse applicants through social media, community liaison officers, and lower application expenses for underprivileged people, said Sgt. Jeff Scott.Saanich: 11 per cent of officers compared to 25 per cent of the general population that is a visible minority or Indigenous. It provided detailed five-year data, which showed a slight improvement over 2016, when nine per cent of officers belonged to those two groups.

Central Saanich: It has one visible minority and one Indigenous officer, representing seven per cent of its 27-member department, numbers that have stayed roughly the same for a decade in a small community where 10 per cent of the population identifies as one of those two groups. “We are consulting with the Greater Victoria diversity committee to identify ways to reach a greater, more diverse audience” when the department is ready to hire new officers, said Sgt. Paul Brailey.

Nelson: It has two Indigenous officers but no visible-minority officers, representing nine per cent of its 22-officer department. Chief Paul Burkart noted his community is unique in B.C., because the census says its overall population of visible minorities and Indigenous people is only 11 per cent of the total.

Oak Bay: Like Nelson, nine per cent (two) of its 22 officers identify as visible minorities, compared to 12 per cent of the general population. It is seeking ways to find more diverse officers, but only hires from other departments, which limits its pool of potential candidates, said spokesperson Lindsay Anderson.

Victoria, the second largest department after Vancouver, and smaller Port Moody do not keep ethnicity statistics and did not explain why they don’t. Neither does Delta, but it “believes there may be value in collecting this data,” so in 2018 started asking recruits to volunteer this information. Since then, half of its new employees have identified as visible minorities, said Delta spokesperson Cris Leykauf.Abbotsford did not respond to requests for the data, and West Vancouver did not provide it by deadline.

To find more ethnically diverse officers, the VPD held information sessions for LGBTQ2S+ candidates, and attended events like Hoobiyee, National Indigenous People’s Day, the Chinese New Year Parade and Vaisakhi, said Simi Heer, public affairs director. The RCMP attends career fairs and cultural events, and has also launched a pilot program to help Inuit people navigate the recruitment process, said Staff Sgt. Janelle Shoihet.

‘This is the worst I’ve ever seen it’

The fallout from Floyd’s “heartbreaking” death and the public’s animosity toward police hit local Mounties harder than any other similar case that has been in the news, said the RCMP’s Lavoie.

“This is the worst I’ve ever seen it. We have seen family members turn on each other, spouses turn on their spouse,” he said. “This is one of the most emotional topics that I’ve seen in my 20 years. It’s been really bad.”

He believes the RCMP does good work and is trying to make up for past errors with modern-day efforts to change. For example, before officers respond to a major situation involving Indigenous people, such as the Wet’suwet’en pipeline protests, Lavoie says he reminds them of the Mounties’ role in seizing children to force them into residential schools and that officers need to be sensitive about this history.

“We need to own exactly what we have done, and I think we are doing a much better job of this than ever before. And that is critical,” he said.Lavoie added he has not felt racism directed at him by anyone in the RCMP, noting he was promoted while on the emergency response team and into his position today with no consideration of the colour of his skin.

Gandesha, the SFU prof, argued that hiring more racialized, or ethnically diverse, people or even having them in positions of power is not a quick fix on its own, unless everyone in the organization believes in change. For example, Minneapolis has a Black police chief, but that didn’t stop a white officer from kneeling on Floyd’s neck until he died.

He notes police budgets have risen as crime has fallen in Canada, and believes there should be a rebalance that results in more investment in social services. Then when someone is in distress, as happened west of Toronto on the weekend when Ejaz Choudry, who had schizophrenia, was shot dead by Peel police, social workers or psychologists would ideally respond to the call, not armed officers, Gandesha said.

‘It raises an eyebrow’

Another statistic we requested from B.C.’s police departments was the number of female officers they employed. That ranged widely, including 30 per cent in New Westminster, 26 per cent in the VPD, 23 per cent within the RCMP, and 15 per cent in Port Moody.

“It raises an eyebrow” that, in 2020, women are not closer to representing half of the police officers in the province, said Genevieve Fuji Johnson, an SFU political science professor who just published a study on the “whiteness” of the upper echelons of Canadian universities.She wonders about the retention rate of women in policing careers, if they perhaps leave prematurely if they don’t feel valued. Earlier this year, for example, an estimated 2,000 former female employees of the RCMP won final court approval to proceed with a multimillion-dollar class-action lawsuit against the force over gender-based abuse and discrimination.

Another question to ask these departments, she said, is whether women and visible minorities have a proportional number of high-ranking jobs or if they mainly fill the lower ranks.“Our police departments, and the RCMP, you want them to look, to the extent that’s possible, like the people they are serving. So you want that representation for a whole range of reasons,” said Fuji Johnson, who is not sure that substantive change will happen soon.

“Right now there are tons of demonstrations going on and people are making noise and I think that is super important. But is anything going to change? I don’t know.”

In a letter posted on the Stl’atl’imx website this month to the people of the St’at’imc Nation, near Lillooet, Doss-Cody wrote that many police agencies have promised to check past behaviour and build a better relationship with the people they serve.

“I wish them all of the best, but like you, I can only believe that this change can come about if there is a serious effort to deal with the systemic racism that has existed that has led to much strife with our people, including our interaction with police,” the police chief wrote.

Source: How diverse is your police force? After anti-racism protests, we analyze the makeup of B.C.’s policing

‘The Computer Got It Wrong’: How Facial Recognition Led To False Arrest Of Black Man

A very concrete case of facial recognition getting it wrong and police incompetence or indifference in not examining evidence or circumstances:

Police in Detroit were trying to figure out who stole five watches from a Shinola retail store. Authorities say the thief took off with an estimated $3,800 worth of merchandise.

Investigators pulled a security video that had recorded the incident. Detectives zoomed in on the grainy footage and ran the person who appeared to be the suspect through facial recognition software.

A hit came back: Robert Julian-Borchak Williams, 42, of Farmington Hills, Mich., about 25 miles northwest of Detroit.

In January, police pulled up to Williams’ home and arrested him while he stood on his front lawn in front of his wife and two daughters, ages 2 and 5, who cried as they watched their father being placed in the patrol car.

His wife, Melissa Williams, wanted to know where police were taking her husband.

” ‘Google it,’ ” she recalls an officer telling her.

Robert Williams was led to an interrogation room, and police put three photos in front of him: Two photos taken from the surveillance camera in the store and a photo of Williams’ state-issued driver’s license.

“When I look at the picture of the guy, I just see a big Black guy. I don’t see a resemblance. I don’t think he looks like me at all,” Williams said in an interview with NPR.

“[The detective] flips the third page over and says, ‘So I guess the computer got it wrong, too.’ And I said, ‘Well, that’s me,’ pointing at a picture of my previous driver’s license,” Williams said of the interrogation with detectives. ” ‘But that guy’s not me,’ ” he said, referring to the other photographs.

“I picked it up and held it to my face and told him, ‘I hope you don’t think all Black people look alike,’ ” Williams said.

Williams was detained for 30 hours and then released on bail until a court hearing on the case, his lawyers say.

At the hearing, a Wayne County prosecutor announced that the charges against Williams were being dropped due to insufficient evidence.

Civil rights experts say Williams is the first documented example in the U.S. of someone being wrongfully arrested based on a false hit produced by facial recognition technology.

Lawyer: Artificial intelligence ‘framed and informed everything’

What makes Williams’ case extraordinary is that police admitted that facial recognition technology, conducted by Michigan State Police in a crime lab at the request of the Detroit Police Department, prompted the arrest, according to charging documents reviewed by NPR.

The pursuit of Williams as a possible suspect came despite repeated claims by him and his lawyers that the match generated by artificial intelligence was faulty.

The alleged suspect in the security camera image was wearing a red St. Louis Cardinals hat. Williams, a Detroit native, said he would under no circumstances be wearing that hat.

“They never even asked him any questions before arresting him. They never asked him if he had an alibi. They never asked if he had a red Cardinals hat. They never asked him where he was that day,” said lawyer Phil Mayor with the ACLU of Michigan.

On Wednesday, the ACLU of Michigan filed a complaint against the Detroit Police Department asking that police stop using the software in investigations.

In a statement to NPR, the Detroit Police Department said after the Williams case, the department enacted new rules. Now, only still photos, not security footage, can be used for facial recognition. And it is now used only in the case of violent crimes.

“Facial recognition software is an investigative tool that is used to generate leads only. Additional investigative work, corroborating evidence and probable cause are required before an arrest can be made,” Detroit Police Department Sgt. Nicole Kirkwood said in a statement.

In Williams’ case, police had asked the store security guard, who had not witnessed the robbery, to pick the suspect out of a photo lineup based on the footage, and the security guard selected Williams.

Victoria Burton-Harris, Williams’ lawyer, said in an interview that she is skeptical that investigators used the facial recognition software as only one of several possible leads.

“When that technology picked my client’s face out, from there, it framed and informed everything that officers did subsequently,” Burton-Harris said.

Academic and government studies have demonstrated that facial recognition systems misidentify people of color more often than white people.

One of the leading studies on bias in face recognition was conducted by Joy Buolamwini, an MIT researcher and founder of the Algorithmic Justice League.

“This egregious mismatch shows just one of the dangers of facial recognition technology which has already been shown in study after study to fail people of color, people with dark skin more than white counterparts generally speaking,” Buolamwini said.

“The threats to civil liberties posed by mass surveillance are too high a price,” she said. “You cannot erase the experience of 30 hours detained, the memories of children seeing their father arrested, or the stigma of being labeled criminal.”

Maria Miller, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office, said the case was dismissed over insufficient evidence, including that the charges were filed without the support of any live witnesses.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said any case sent to her office that uses facial recognition technology cannot move forward without other supporting evidence.

“This case should not have been issued based on the DPD investigation, and for that we apologize,” Worthy said in a statement to NPR. “Thankfully, it was dismissed on our office’s own motion. This does not in any way make up for the hours that Mr. Williams spent in jail.”

Worthy said Williams is able to have the case expunged from his record.

Williams: “Let’s say that this case wasn’t retail fraud. What if it’s rape or murder?”

According to Georgetown Law’s Center on Privacy and Technology, at least a quarter of the nation’s law enforcement agencies have access to face recognition tools.

“Most of the time, people who are arrested using face recognition are not told face recognition was used to arrest them,” said Jameson Spivack, a researcher at the center.

While Amazon, Microsoft and IBM have announced a halt to sales of face recognition technology to law enforcement, Spivack said that will have little effect, since most major facial recognition software contracts with police are with smaller, more specialized companies, like South Carolina-based DataWorks Plus, which is the company that supplied the Detroit Police Department with its face-scanning software.

The company did not respond to an interview request.

DataWorks Plus has supplied the technology to government agencies in Santa Barbara, Calif., Chicago and Philadelphia.

Facial recognition technology is used by consumers every day to unlock their smartphones or to tag friends on social media. Some airports use the technology to scan passengers before they board flights.

Its deployment by governments, though, has drawn concern from privacy advocates and experts who study the machine learning tool and have highlighted its flaws.

“Some departments of motor vehicles will use facial recognition to detect license fraud, identity theft, but the most common use is law enforcement, whether it’s state, local or federal law enforcement,” Spivack said.

The government use of facial recognition technology has been banned in half a dozen cities.

In Michigan, Williams said he hopes his case is a wake-up call to lawmakers.

“Let’s say that this case wasn’t retail fraud. What if it’s rape or murder? Would I have gotten out of jail on a personal bond, or would I have ever come home?” Williams said.

Williams and his wife, Melissa, worry about the long-term effects the arrest will have on their two young daughters.

“Seeing their dad get arrested, that was their first interaction with the police. So it’s definitely going to shape how they perceive law enforcement,” Melissa Williams said.

In his complaint, Williams and his lawyers say if the police department won’t ban the technology outright, then at least his photo should be removed from the database, so this doesn’t happen again.

“If someone wants to pull my name and look me up,” Williams said, “who wants to be seen as a thief?”

Source: ‘The Computer Got It Wrong’: How Facial Recognition Led To False Arrest Of Black Man

Damning report points finger at Montreal city, police for failure to address systemic racism

Of note:

Montreal police operate with a culture of impunity fuelled by indifference in the city administration to complaints of racial profiling, violence and other forms of discrimination, according to a new report on systemic racism in the city.

The police force also works without data and concrete objectives for diversifying its work force, a vacuum that has made it unrepresentative of the community, much like other Montreal city departments, the report by the city’s independent public consultation office says.

Public consultations with a broad mandate to study systemic racism in the administration of the city of Montreal began two years ago. The Office de consultation publique de Montréal (OCPM) heard from 7,000 people who recounted stories of profiling, hiring and promotion roadblocks, and both overt and subtle discrimination.

The report landed as systemic racism and police discrimination have been pushed to the top of the public agenda. A series of violent incidents involving police in the United States and Canada have triggered protests and challenged leaders to act.

Long-standing denial that systemic racism is a problem is entrenched in Montreal’s city administration while the police hierarchy flip-flops on the existence of racial profiling and other forms of discrimination, said the report. It issued 38 recommendations including better data collection, enforcement of hiring targets, improved training and more responsive oversight mechanisms for the police and the city.

“How can you effectively and efficiently fight against racism if you don’t acknowledge it exists and don’t have data on what to change?” Dominique Ollivier, head of the OCPM, said in an interview. “There is no culture of evaluation in the city. They give themselves broad goals so any little thing can be called success.”

About 35 per cent of Montrealers identify as racialized or Indigenous people. About 19 per cent of the city’s work force are from those groups, an increase from 12.3 per cent 10 years earlier. For Montreal police, the figure was 7.7 per cent in 2019. Less than 2 per cent of city’s senior managers are racialized people. “They haven’t hired a single manager in three years from visible minorities or Indigenous groups,” Ms. Ollivier said.

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante responded Monday by formally acknowledging at City Hall that systemic racism exists and vowing to appoint a commissioner to fight discrimination. However she offered no new steps to increase work-force or management diversity. “The city must be an exemplary employer,” she said. “We have to hit the accelerator to meet our targets. We can and must do better.”

A spokesman for the Montreal police said Chief Sylvain Caron would not comment on the report Monday. The police force sent out a statement Monday evening acknowledging the existence of systemic racism and vowing to fight it. In July, Chief Caron is set to release a new policy on street identification checks, known in some jurisdictions as carding.

Quebec Premier François Legault announced Monday he is creating a provincial task force to draft an anti-racism action plan by Christmas. Mr. Legault does not recognize systemic racism exists in Quebec but said the task force will address racism in public security, the justice system, the workplace, education and housing.

Mr. Legault said that, in order to expedite action on a long-studied issue, the task force will consist only of cabinet ministers and government MNAs. Mr. Legault put two Black ministers in charge of the task force: Nadine Girault, a former executive in the financial industry, and Lionel Carmant, a physician.

“I am not going to spend my time trying to find a definition of systemic racism that will be acceptable to everyone,” Ms. Girault said. “To recognize the problem is part of the solution, but we must go forward and create a clear obligation for results.”

Montreal’s racism report was the product of provisions in the city’s charter that allow citizens to petition for such consultations. Balarama Holness, one of the organizers who gathered 22,000 signatures to force the study, was pleased with its concrete recommendations but split on the political reaction.

“François Legault doesn’t recognize systemic racism but seems to be taking concrete steps to do something about it. Valérie Plante recognizes systemic racism on a symbolic level and is doing nothing about it,” said Mr. Holness, who is a McGill law student and founder of Montreal in Action, a human-rights advocacy group.

Mr. Holness, like Ms. Ollivier, expressed some optimism that protest and public attention might lead to action. “Let’s hope this is a step to creating a new legacy of equality,” he said, “even if we all know equality is a pursuit, not a destination.”

Source: Damning report points finger at Montreal city, police for failure to address systemic racism

‘We’re Not Racist’: French Police Say They’re Being Unfairly Criticized

Generally, people and organizations are reluctant to state they are racist or that systemic racism exists, France being no exception:

French police say they are being stigmatized during protests in France against police violence in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

On Thursday, police gathered in front of precincts across the country and threw down their handcuffs in a symbolic gesture against what they say is unfair criticism.

“The police in France have nothing to do with the police in the U.S., and we’re not racist,” said Fabien Vanhemelryck, the head of the main police union in France, as he joined dozens of police officers demonstrating Friday morning along the Champs-Élysées.

Just days after Floyd was killed while in police custody in Minneapolis, more than 20,000 Parisians defied a ban on gatherings during the pandemic to demand the truth about the death of a black Frenchman named Adama Traoré while in police custody in 2016.

The protesters said the French police, like their American counterparts, are endemically racist, a charge denied by many top officials in a country that likes to consider itself colorblind.

Mathieu Zagrodzki is a specialist on law enforcement and a lecturer at the University of Versailles. He says police violence in France cannot really be compared to the levels of violence in the U.S.

“French police kill from 10 to 15 people a year,” he says. “American police kill more than 1000.”

But Zagrodzki says both forces disproportionately target minorities.

A 2017 report by the French state civil liberties guardian, the Défenseur des Droits, says people perceived as black or Arab are 20 times more likely to be stopped by police than the general population.

“The difference with the U.S. and France is that in France I don’t fear for my life,” says Thierry Picaut, a black actor who participated in a rally this week.

Earlier this week, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner announced a ban on police use of chokeholds and said there would be zero tolerance for racism in law enforcement.

The police say they need the chokehold to restrain violent individuals and keep dangerous situations from escalating. Officers say Castaner has betrayed them.

Zagrodzki says strong police unions makes reform difficult to achieve – and he say French law-enforcement is in a state of crisis.

“The police paid a high toll in the terrorist attacks,” he says, referring to a series of bloody incidents in 2015. That was followed by the long and frequently violent “yellow vest” protests that all but paralyzed France for much of last year.

The strain on officers has been intense “They have worked more than 25 million hours of overtime in the past few years,” Zagrodzki says, “and the the number of suicides is very high.”

Source: ‘We’re Not Racist’: French Police Say They’re Being Unfairly Criticized

Black Lives Matter Is Winning Activists set out to show that police brutality was pervasive. The police have now made that clear.

Good piece by Farhad Manjoo:

It’s wondrous, isn’t it, how the people just keep coming out? Day after day, night after night, in dozens of cities, braving a deadly virus and brutal retaliation, they continue to pack the streets in uncountable numbers, demanding equality and justice — and, finally, prompting what feels like real change.

How did this happen? How did Black Lives Matter, a hashtag-powered movement that has been building for years, bring America to what looks like a turning point?

I have a theory: The protests exploded in scale and intensity because the police seemed to go out of their way to illustrate exactly the arguments that Black Lives Matter has been raising online since 2013.

For the last two weeks, the police reaction to the movement has been so unhinged, and so well documented, that it couldn’t help but feed support for the protests. American public opinion may have tipped in favor of Black Lives Matter for good.

By “the police,” I mean not just state and municipal police across the country, but also the federal officers from various agencies that cracked down on protesters in front of the White House, as well as their supporters and political patrons, from police chiefs to mayors to the attorney general and the president himself.

Black Lives Matter aims to highlight the depth of brutality, injustice and unaccountability that American society, especially law enforcement, harbors toward black people. Many protesters set out to call attention to the unchecked power of the police, their military weaponry and their capricious use of it. They wanted to show that the problem of policing in America is more than that of individual bad officers; the problem is a culture that protects wrongdoers, tolerates mendacity, rewards blind loyalty and is fiercely resistant to change. More deeply, it is a law enforcement culture that does not regard black lives as worthy of protection.

And what did the cops do? They responded with a display of organized, unchecked power — on camera, in a way that many Americans might never be able to unsee.

To understand why this moment may prompt structural change, it is worth putting the latest protests into a larger context. To me, the past two weeks have felt like an echo of that heady moment late in 2017, after The New York Times and The New Yorker exposed Harvey Weinstein’s history of sexual assault. At the time, #MeToo, as an online rallying cry against sexual abuse and harassment, was more than a decade old. The Weinstein story didn’t create that movement, just as the videos of George Floyd’s death at the hands of the Minneapolis police didn’t create Black Lives Matter.

Police Data Reveals Stark Racial Discrepancies in Social Distancing Enforcement Across New York City

Of note:

On Friday, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) released six weeks worth of data related to social distancing enforcement, following New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s March order mandating people stay inside and avoid congregating in large groups. The release comes amid mounting criticism of racial disparities in police enforcement of Cuomo’s orders, and just a day after Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez released social distancing arrest data for his borough.

Both data sets reveal that minority communities have been impacted to a far greater extent by police enforcement during the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the NYPD data, 374 summons “for violations of emergency procedures and acts liable to spread disease” were handed out by police between March 16 and May 5. A summons is a ticket that is usually issued to someone by a police officer for a court appearance after violating a law.

Of that 374 summons, 304 were handed out to black and Hispanic people.

Related information from the Brooklyn DA’s office confirmed that 40 people were arrested from March 17 to May 4 for not following social distancing measures. 35 of those people were black, four of them were Hispanic and one was white.

DA Gonzalez said that his office is reviewing allegations of excessive force in Brooklyn arrest incidents, adding that arrests should be a last resort.

“Simply stated, we cannot police ourselves out of this pandemic. Instead, we need to give people the knowledge and ability to keep safe,” Gonzalez said in a statement.

According to the New York Times, the NYPD has made at least 120 arrests for social distancing between March 16 and May 5 across New York City as a whole. Of these arrests, 68% of those detained were black and 24% of them were Hispanic.

These numbers have become a point of mounting criticism for the police department and the mayor’s office. Police reform activists, community advocates and even the New York City Police Benevolent Association (NYC PBA) have said that police officers should not be enforcing social distancing at all.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio defended the NYPD’s role in social distancing enforcement during a Thursday press conference, after being questioned about whether it had become comparable to stop-and-frisk, the policing practice of stopping someone and searching them for weapons or other illegal items that disproportionately impacted black and Latino men during its height.

“What happened with stop and frisk was a systematic, oppressive, unconstitutional strategy that created a new problem much bigger than anything it purported to solve,” de Blasio said. “This is the farthest thing from that. This is addressing a pandemic.”

After the release of the arrest data from Brooklyn, he tweeted that the racial “disparity” apparent did not reflect the NYPD’s larger work. However, “We HAVE TO do better and WE WILL,” he wrote.

“That disparity, I don’t like, I don’t accept,” de Blasio continued during a Friday press conference. ” I want to see every community treated fairly, but I want a resolute approach where it’s really clear we got to follow these rules.”

De Blasio also announced Friday that, in response to “consistent overcrowding” in parks across the city, a cap would be placed on the number of people allowed, and that “extra enforcement” would be seen to that effect.

Source: Police Data Reveals Stark Racial Discrepancies in Social Distancing Enforcement Across New York City

Concerns raised after facial recognition software found to have racial bias

Legitimate concerns:

In 2015, two undercover police officers in Jacksonville, Fla., bought $50 worth of crack cocaine from a man on the street. One of the cops surreptitiously snapped a cellphone photo of the man and sent it to a crime analyst, who ran the photo through facial recognition software.

The facial recognition algorithm produced several matches, and the analyst chose the first one: a mug shot of a man named Willie Allen Lynch. Lynch was convicted of selling drugs and sentenced to eight years in prison.

Civil liberties lawyers jumped on the case, flagging a litany of concerns to fight the conviction. Matches of other possible perpetrators generated by the tool were never disclosed to Lynch, hampering his ability to argue for his innocence. The use of the technology statewide had been poorly regulated and shrouded in secrecy.

But also, Willie Allen Lynch is a Black man.

Multiple studies have shown facial recognition technology makes more errors on Black faces. For mug shots in particular, researchers have found that algorithms generate the highest rates of false matches for African American, Asian and Indigenous people.

After more than two dozen police services, government agencies and private businesses across Canada recently admitted to testing the divisive facial recognition app Clearview AI, experts and advocates say it’s vital that lawmakers and politicians understand how the emerging technology could impact racialized citizens.

“Technologies have their bias as well,” said Nasma Ahmed, director of Toronto-based non-profit Digital Justice Lab, who is advocating for a pause on the use of facial recognition technology until proper oversight is established.

“If they don’t wake up, they’re just going to be on the wrong side of trying to fight this battle … because they didn’t realize how significant the threat or the danger of this technology is,” says Toronto-born Toni Morgan, managing director of the Center for Law, Innovation and Creativity at Northeastern University School of Law in Boston.

“It feels like Toronto is a little bit behind the curve in understanding the implications of what it means for law enforcement to access this technology.”

Last month, the Star revealed that officers at more than 20 police forces across Canada have used Clearview AI, a facial recognition tool that has been described as “dystopian” and “reckless” for its broad search powers. It relies on what the U.S. company has said is a database of three billion photos scraped from the web, including social media.

Almost all police forces that confirmed use of the tool said officers had accessed a free trial version without the knowledge or authorization of police leadership and have been told to stop; the RCMP is the only police service that has paid to access the technology.

Multiple forces say the tool was used by investigators within child exploitation units, but it was also used to probe lesser crimes, including in an auto theft investigation and by a Rexall employee seeking to stop shoplifters.

While a handful of American cities and states have moved to limit or outright ban police use of facial recognition technology, the response from Canadian lawmakers has been muted.

According to client data obtained by BuzzFeed News and shared exclusively with the Star, the Toronto Police Service was the most prolific user of Clearview AI in Canada. (Clearview AI has not responded to multiple requests for comment from the Star but told BuzzFeed there are “numerous inaccuracies” in the client data information, which they allege was “illegally obtained.”)

Toronto police ran more than 3,400 searches since October, according to the BuzzFeed data.

A Toronto police spokesperson has said officers were “informally testing” the technology, but said the force could not verify the Star’s data about officers’ use or “comment on it with any certainty.” Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders directed officers to stop using the tool after he became aware they were using it, and a review is underway.

But Toronto police are still using a different facial recognition tool, one made by NEC Corp. of America and purchased in 2018. The NEC facial recognition tool searches the Toronto police database of approximately 1.5 million mug shot photos.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce, has been testing the accuracy of facial recognition technology since 2002. Companies that sell the tools voluntarily submit their algorithms to be tested to NIST; government agencies sponsor the research to help inform policy.

In a report released in December that tested 189 algorithms from 99 developers, NIST found dramatic variations in accuracy across different demographic groups. For one type of matching, the team discovered the systems had error rates between 10 and 100 times higher for African American and Asian faces compared to images of white faces.

For the type of facial recognition matching most likely to be used by law enforcement, African American women had higher error rates.

“Law enforcement, they probably have one of the most difficult cases. Because if they miss someone … and that person commits a crime, they’re going to look bad. If they finger the wrong person, they’re going to look bad,” said Craig Watson, manager of the group that runs NIST’s testing program.

Clearview AI has not been tested by NIST. The company has claimed its tool is “100% accurate” in a report written by an “independent review panel.” The panel said it relied on the same methodology the American Civil Liberties Union used to assess a facial recognition algorithm sold by Amazon.

The American Civil Liberties Union slammed the report, calling the claim “misleading” and the tool “dystopian.”

Clearview AI did not respond to a request for comment about its accuracy claims.

Before purchasing the NEC facial recognition technology, Toronto police conducted a privacy impact assessment. Asked if this examined potential racial bias within the NEC’s algorithms, spokesperson Meaghan Gray said in an email the contents of the report are not public.

But she said TPS “has not experienced racial or gender bias when utilizing the NEC Facial Recognition System.”

“While not a means of undisputable positive identification like fingerprint identification, this technology provides ‘potential candidates’ as investigative leads,” she said. “Consequently, one race or gender has not been disproportionally identified nor has the TPS made any false identifications.”

The revelations about Toronto police’s use of Clearview AI have coincided with the planned installation of additional CCTV cameras in communities across the city, including in the Jane Street and Finch Avenue West area. The provincially funded additional cameras come after the Toronto police board approved increasing the number placed around the city.

The combination of facial recognition technology and additional CCTV cameras in a neighbourhood home to many racialized Torontonians is a “recipe for disaster,” said Sam Tecle, a community worker with Jane and Finch’s Success Beyond Limits youth support program.

“One technology feeds the other,” Tecle said. “Together, I don’t know how that doesn’t result in surveillance — more intensified surveillance — of Black and racialized folks.”

Tecle said the plan to install more cameras was asking for a lot of trust from a community that already has a fraught relationship with the police. That’s in large part due to the legacy of carding, he said — when police stop, question and document people not suspected of a crime, a practice that disproportionately impacts Black and brown men.

“This is just a digital form of doing the same thing,” Tecle told the Star. “If we’re misrecognized and misidentified through these facial recognition algorithms, then I’m very apprehensive about them using any kind of facial recognition software.”

Others pointed out that false positives — incorrect matches — could have particularly grave consequences in the context of police use of force: Black people are “grossly over-represented” in cases where Toronto police used force, according to a 2018 report by the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

Saunders has said residents in high-crime areas have repeatedly asked for more CCTV cameras in public spaces. At last month’s Toronto police board meeting, Mayor John Tory passed a motion requiring that police engage in a public community consultation process before installing more cameras.

Gray said many residents and business owners want increased safety measures, and this feedback alongside an analysis of crime trends led the force to identify “selected areas that are most susceptible to firearm-related offences.”

“The cameras are not used for surveillance. The cameras will be used for investigation purposes, post-reported offences or incidents, to help identify potential suspects, and if needed during major events to aid in public safety,” Gray said.

Akwasi Owusu-Bempah, an assistant professor of criminology at the University of Toronto, said when cameras are placed in neighbourhoods with high proportions of racialized people, then used in tandem with facial recognition technology, “it could be problematic, because of false positives and false negatives.”

“What this gets at is the need for continued discussion, debate, and certainly oversight,” Owusu-Bempah said.

Source: Concerns raised after facial recognition software found to have racial bias

In Quebec’s secularism law, an Ontario police force sees a source of recruits

Reminds me of Ontario hospitals doing the same thing during the 2013 PQ charter of values debates:

An Ontario police force will launch a recruiting campaign targeting Quebec residents affected by the province’s new law on religious symbols.

The Peel Regional Police, which covers territory including the cities of Mississauga and Brampton, will conduct a campaign in Quebec after a motion was passed unanimously by the region’s police services board on Friday.

The police force “believes in the values of diversity and inclusion, including the accommodation of religious symbols,” the motion states. It goes on to say that the police board “invites all affected individuals either pursuing or training for a career in policing in Quebec to apply for a career with the Peel Regional Police.”

The motion calls for the police force to place advertising “within Quebec.”

Quebec’s religious symbols law, which was passed last Sunday, will bar public school teachers, government lawyers, judges and police officers from wearing religious symbols while at work.

The Peel Regional Police have just over 2,000 uniformed officers and 800 civilian staff, said Constable Danny Marttini, a spokesperson for the force. They hire approximately 100 new recruits every year, she said.

The police board motion was seconded by Patrick Brown, Brampton’s mayor and the former leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, who declared his opposition to Quebec’s law in a statement released Friday.

“We need to send a strong message to proponents of [the secularism law] in Quebec,” the statement says. “This law is an affront to freedom of religion and an infringement of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

Brown has also introduced a similar motion with Brampton’s city council for recruiting for the city’s fire and emergency service.

Another motion calls for the city to join a legal challenge to Quebec’s law initiated by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the National Council of Canadian Muslims.

In his motion advocating for Brampton to join the legal challenge, Brown writes that the city “is ground zero for diversity and Canadian multiculturalism, and [Brampton’s] Council bears a responsibility to stand up in defence of the Canadian multicultural mosaic.”

Those motions will be considered at a council meeting on June 26.

Brown’s statement says the law on religious symbols will prohibit Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and others who wear religious symbols from pursuing careers in many public sector jobs.

The Islamic Cultural Centre of Quebec thanked the Peel police force for its action.

“Thanks to the Peel Regional Police for applying the values of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” the organization said on Facebook.

Source: In Quebec’s secularism law, an Ontario police force sees a source of recruits

Black people in Halifax 6 times more likely to be street checked than whites

Not unique to Halifax:

A new report released Wednesday on racial profiling by Halifax-area police found black people were street checked at a rate six times higher than white people in Halifax.

The independent report found that in Halifax, the odds of being stopped for a street check were highest for black men, followed by Arab males and black females.

The number is about double the CBC News estimate that triggered this review. The new report comes more than two years after data showed black people were three times more likely than whites to be subjected to the controversial practice in the municipality.

The report by Scot Wortley, a University of Toronto criminology professor, also found that police in the Halifax region do more street checks than police in Montreal, Vancouver or Ottawa. There were comparable rates in Edmonton and Calgary.

Street checks allow police officers to document information about a person they believe could be of significance to a future investigation, and record details such as their ethnicity, gender, age and location.

In Halifax, the odds of being stopped for a street check were highest for black people, followed by Arab and west Asian people. (CBC )

The 180-page report also found the practice of street checks has a disproportionate and negative impact on the African Nova Scotia community, contributing to the criminalization of black youth.

Wortley reported that black community members interviewed for the study said they are afraid of police, they feel targeted by police, and they are treated rudely and aggressively. They also said police treatment of black people has not improved significantly in the past 20 years.

Blacks more likely to be charged

Wortley was hired by the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission in 2017 after a report from Halifax RCMP in January of that year found that in the first 10 months of 2016, 41 per cent of 1,246 street checks involved black Nova Scotians.

Halifax Regional Police figures showed that of the roughly 37,000 people checked between 2005 and 2016, almost 4,100 were black — about 11 per cent of checks — despite making up only 3.59 per cent of the city’s population, according to the 2011 census.

In what Wortley described as a “difficult statistic,” the report showed that 30 per cent of Halifax’s black male population had been charged with a crime, as opposed with 6.8 per cent of the white male population, over that period.

Wortley said this likely means black people are more likely to be charged for the same behaviour than white people. The charge rate for black males with cannabis offences was four times higher than for white males, even though there’s no evidence that black people use more cannabis than white people.

He said police street checks have contributed to an erosion of trust in law enforcement and undermined the perceived legitimacy of the entire criminal justice system.

Wortley presented several recommendations including that street checks must be banned or at least regulated.

He said it’s clear that street checks have a disproportionate effect on the black Nova Scotia community and consequences of current street check use “clearly outweigh and crime prevention benefits.”

Nova Scotia Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard said she supports stopping the practice of street checks.

“The rest of Canada will be watching what happens here,” she told an audience gathered at the Halifax Central Library, where the report was unveiled.

‘Anti-black bias’

Lindell Smith, the first black city councillor elected in Halifax in 16 years, said in a statement on his website that he hopes this is an opportunity to “repair the broken relationship with the black community and our police force.”

“As a member of the African Nova Scotian community, I certainly do not need Dr. Wortley’s report to tell me that for decades the community has felt that there is anti-black bias, and racial profiling when policing black communities. I hope that with the release of this report that we as the black community don’t see this as a ‘I told you so’ moment,” he said.

Smith said he’s been stopped many times by police, both while driving and walking in the Halifax area. He said in those instances he had the felling of “humiliation and being racially profiled.”

Across Canada, the report found the average annual street check rate was highest in Toronto, with Halifax in second place. Despite an overall reduction in street checks in Halifax in recent years, Wortley says the over-representation of minorities has remained constant.

Ontario banned police carding in specific situations in 2017 — a controversial practice that is similar to street checks.

However, Halifax Regional Police Chief Jean-Michel Blais has argued in the past that the valid street checks performed by police officers in Halifax differ from the random stops or carding practices that are now restricted in Ontario.

Source: Black people in Halifax 6 times more likely to be street checked than whites

UK: I served in the Met. The lack of progress on diversity is disgusting


Canadian police forces also struggle with recruitment of visible minorities:

The question that needs to be asked is not “are the Metropolitan police institutionally racist?”, or “why does black and minority ethnic recruitment for the police still lag so far behind the diversity of London as a whole?” It should simply be: “Why do young black and minority ethnic people reject the Metropolitan police as a career choice?”

This week, marking 20 years since the landmark Macpherson report on institutional racism in the police, the Met said it would take 100 years for the force to mirror the wider diversity of London and will remain disproportionately white. Why?

The answer can be found in the experiences of black and minority ethnic communities of the police, which continues far too often to be marked by incivility, suspicion and distrust. The continued disproportionate use of stop and search and the vanishingly low numbers of stops that result in a substantive charge, never mind conviction, cements in young black consciousness an underlying enmity – a feeling that the police are “other”.

From those new recruits who manage to overcome this feeling of alienation, I’ve heard how the recruitment process can often make BAME individuals feel unwelcome.

Those who make it to become serving officers also experience a continued canteen culture which, while muted in its vocal expressions of racism compared with 35 years ago when I joined, nevertheless still has subtle ways of excluding BAME staff as well as LGBT officers. There has been significant progress both in terms of the initial recruitment and promotion of female officers, but this has not been mirrored for BAME staff. Promotion for black, Asian and minority ethnic officers continues to take longer, and come up against more obstacles than for white colleagues. As recently as 2008, I set up a mentoring and coaching programme to raise promotion rates for BAME officers, which had some early successes. Unfortunately, when I tried to extend the programme, the initiative was rubbished by senior officers.

Access to further and specialist training, and hence jobs with special squads, is holding BAME officers back: selection continues to be based on who you know rather than what you can do. That means the police service is missing out on talented individuals who could contribute to specialist teams, and help reduce the impression, for example, that responders are less careful about the safety of BAME suspects.

This depressing picture reflects a failure to fully engage with the Macpherson message that “processes, attitudes and behaviour which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and racist stereotyping disadvantages minority ethnic people”.

This week Cressida Dick, the force’s head, claimed the Met is not institutionally racist: “I don’t feel it is now a useful way to describe the service and I don’t believe we are,” she said. “I simply don’t see it as a helpful or accurate description.”

But in saying this, the commissioner is effectively rejecting the reality of the unconscious bias that certainly exists. She is also fostering the unhelpful idea that naming the problem amounts to a slur on individuals. This failure to recognise discrimination where it exists has stymied the progress that the Met could and should have made, both in its attitude to the general public and to BAME recruits and officers. It has sabotaged attempts to bring the Met into the 21st century, and will continue to do so.

Only when discrimination – whether implicit or explicit, wilful or unwitting – is recognised can it start to be addressed. And only when it is addressed will the daily experience of black and minority ethnic Londoners encourage them to join the police to create a virtuous upward spiral of respect, acceptance and diversity.

Source: I served in the Met. The lack of progress on diversity is disgusting