Feds find no bias in racial profiling by traffic stop study in Canada

Of note:

There was no evidence of bias found in a federal study on racial profiling by traffic police in Canada.

“Most participants were stopped by police for traffic violations and some were aware of why they were being stopped even before speaking to police,” said the report called National Justice Survey 2021.

“These participants acknowledged they were speeding or committing some other traffic violation such as not coming to a complete stop at a stop sign. A few were pulled over for having expired license plates.”

The poll, which cost $147, 463, was conducted last February and March following coverage of the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the Black Lives Matter demonstrations that followed.

Ekos Research Associates polled 3,211 people across the country including doing follow-up interviews with Black, Asian or Indigenous drivers.

Of the Black drivers surveyed, all said they were stopped for routine infractions.

One driver suspected it was for speeding while another had his license plates in the front seat of his car.

“Most participants indicated the traffic stop was fairly routine and they did not perceive they were being targeted in any way by being stopped by police,” said the survey.

“Many said the interaction with police was neutral or respectful.

Source: Feds find no bias in racial profiling by traffic stop study in Canada

To tackle hate-motivated crimes, Canada’s justice system needs to change

Of note even if the proposed solutions are modest and unlikely by themselves to make a significant difference although encouraging minorities and others to increase reporting would be a good step:

As Muslim chairs of police boards in Ontario, we are sadly familiar with hate-motivated crimes, and with the reality that no country is immune. Police services across Canada have been grappling with these issues for some time, and we are vividly aware that we cannot look away from the hatred that stole the lives of four fellow Canadians who died simply because they were walking while Muslim.

While the particulars of criminal investigations cannot be released, London Police Services were clear that our beloved community members were murdered and targeted for their Islamic faith. As hard as that is to hear for many Canadians, the truth is this is not a singular event. Islamophobic incidents happen all the time in Canada.

In the City of London and Peel Region, both of which are home to diverse communities with large numbers of racialized citizens, police-reported hate-crime numbers have remained consistent over the last few years. According to Statistics Canada, London’s numbers rose by more than a third from 2015 to 2019, and in four of those five years, the city’s rate per 100,000 population was higher than the national average. In 2019, London police reported that Black, Muslim, Jewish, Middle Eastern and LGBTQ2+ peoples constituted the five most targeted groups for hate crimes. In Peel, meanwhile, crimes motivated by race or nationality increased by 54 per cent from 2018 to 2020, with Black and South Asian people being the most targeted by race or ethnicity. Muslims and Jews experienced the most targeting based on faith.

Yet, despite these numbers, our justice system continues to have an incredibly high threshold for anyone to be prosecuted under hate-related laws, and as a result, it is not achieving its desired aims. There remains no specific definition of a “hate crime” in the Criminal Code as a chargeable offence, and what is laid out only provides a judge the ability to hand down harsher sentences based on his or her ruling around a given perpetrator’s motivations. In Peel, only a third of the Criminal Code offences designated by police as hate- or bias-motivated crimes resulted in Criminal Code charges in 2020.

This outdated model emboldens hateful behavior while doing little to dissuade perpetrators, which in turn normalizes their hate-filled rhetoric and actions. Perpetrators such as Alexandre Bissonnette, for instance, have reaped the benefit of loopholes such as concurrent sentences; Mr. Bissonnette murdered six people in Quebec City in 2017, yet serves time for only one murder. We cannot let this injustice continue in the case of the family killed in London, Ont.

Reporting mechanisms are also a challenge. Far too often, verbal threats and assaults are not brought to the police because victims don’t feel like they’ll be taken seriously, simply don’t want the trouble, or are concerned that their reporting will only further agitate the perpetrators, putting the victims and their families at further risk. This means that any hate-crime numbers are almost certainly underestimated, masking the magnitude of the problem.

Earlier this week, community leaders called for action at the vigil for the family killed on the streets of London, but political gesturing and posturing won’t be enough to help prevent the next hate-fueled mass murder. We must name hate for what it is, stare it down, and work with the affected communities to prioritize change over pandering for votes. All parties must work together to get tougher on hate and extremism. We must end the minimization and denial that has become commonplace in our system and in our discourse. Our politicians and legislators can get the ball rolling by changing hate-crime laws to better protect victims who do report, while holding those responsible maximally accountable.

We must also work with our communities to increase the reporting of such crimes so that we can both identify and engage the perpetrators and provide victims with a sense of safety and support. In addition, our laws must also reflect our society’s values and priorities. If hate crimes are difficult to prosecute and carry minimal odds of conviction, this sends the wrong message.

It’s time to take bolder action against anti-Muslim hate, and all other forms of hate and bigotry that continue to terrorize our communities. It’s time to arm our justice system with the necessary tools to root out hatred, and to hold accountable those who perpetrate hate crimes. It’s time to remind far-right extremists and terrorists that our country will not tolerate their hate-motivated crimes and rhetoric. The human cost of our inaction would be too great to bear.

Javeed Sukhera is the chair of the London Police Services Board and an associate professor of psychiatry and paediatrics at Western University. Ahmad Attia is the chair of the Peel Police Services Board and the CEO of Incisive Strategy.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-to-tackle-hate-motivated-crimes-canadas-justice-system-needs-to-change/

What role do unions have in addressing systemic racism?

Article tries to do too much by discussing police unions and public servant unions. Issues are quite different and it is a mistake to conflate the two:

Reported cases of abuse and murder of people from visible minority groups at the hands of police forces across Canada persist today. Yet, by and large, Canadian police unions have been opposing or watering down efforts to address discriminatory policing practices and unbridled growth in police funding for years. Since 1999, even during times of budget cuts and cutbacks on social expenditure, there’s been a steady increase in real expenditure on policing over the past three decades, according to Statistics Canada.

Last year, unions across Canada issued statements against racism. In October 2020, the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) exhorted unions to join the fight to defund police. The CLC argues that defunding the police would strengthen long-underfunded social service and public service sectors, as well as help in the fight against racism and violence in policing communities.

Right now, there’s an opportunity to make the goal of defunding the police part of union negotiations and the work of the broader Canadian labour movement – and we should seize it. Before that happens, however, unions must look inward. They should ask themselves: What can we in the labour movement do to address the power of police unions and associations? What steps can we take to address structural racism within institutions across Canada?

Unions and structural racism

In Canada, the wage gap in the highly unionized public sector is smaller than in the mostly non-unionized private sector. According to research published by Canadian professors Gerald Hunt and David Rayside, unions here have been more responsive than their American counterparts on issues of equity. Indeed, they have some of the largest settlements on equity in the country, and the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) is currently supporting a class action lawsuit to address systemic discrimination in the public sector.

That said, data shows that the wage gap between visible minorities and white Canadians in unions persists over generations in Canada. A recent study published in International Migration Review examines the ability of newly arrived non-white immigrants to access union jobs and the impact of unionization on their earnings. The study’s findings are disturbing because not only do non-white immigrants have less access to union jobs, the positive impact of unionization on earnings is somewhat lower for new non-white immigrants than for new white immigrants. The study concludes that unionization does not contribute to reducing the earnings gap of new non-white immigrants relative to white immigrants and native-born Canadians of any background. We need to expand this kind of research to other marginalized and visible minority communities, such as First Nations, and then work on addressing the aforementioned gaps.

A more difficult problem to address is how we root out the structural injustices that are now normalized in collective bargaining agreements, grievance-handling and other union processes. The wage gap between unionized visible minority members and unionized white male members is much smaller than the gap between all visible minority workers and white workers – but it still exists. There are also other issues, such as access to what are considered better positions for members with more seniority, who tend to bedisproportionately white, as well as the preponderance of visible minorities in precarious work that’s sometimes contracted out by public sector employers.

In the United Kingdom, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) launched an anti-racist task force,  which has done work that’s worth emulating in Canada. TUC is compiling decades of research conducted by U.K.-based unions, as well as researchers and analysts, to promote more effective anti-racism work within these unions. It’s also been surveying union membersto ask about discrimination at work, looking at structural racism in union practices and perception, as well as why sometimes cases go unreported. Now that London has declared its city hall to be an anti-racist organization, TUC will leverage its work to develop policies and make this declaration a reality.

As policy-makers, the most difficult question for any union to answer is what to do when marginalized communities report that members are complicit in practices that are racist. When it comes to complaints about individual members, unions have a duty to represent those individuals during the grievance process, but as Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) points out, that doesn’t mean the union must represent the individual over the needs of the collective or those of marginalized communities. Union-bargaining agents and stewards must be reminded of this when they defend reprehensible behaviour.

Carceral unions and the labour movement

Since police and corrections officers first sought recognition as bargaining agents, they faced widespread opposition from different stakeholders. Many governments and businesses felt that police forces, which are an essential service to maintain law and order, shouldn’t be allowed to organize and withhold their labour to demand improvements to their work conditions.

Meanwhile, social justice and workers’ rights activists who faced repression and violence from police organized to keep them out of labour federations (for the most part, police associations and unions aren’t affiliated with the Canadian Labour Congress, except in the few cases where police forces chose to be represented by larger public sector unions).

An important aspect of demanding justice for visible minorities is demanding justice in policing. How do we influence the actions of police unions and their members? How do we stop them from obstructing efforts to change discriminatory police practices and create oversight? Is there any way they can become partners in the effort to defund police?

Currently, there are movements in Canada to demand the expulsion of police and correctional officers from unions affiliated with the larger labour federations, such as PSAC and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). But this gesture, if made, would be largely symbolic because the lion’s share of police unions aren’t part of Canada’s labour federations.  Indeed, many call themselves associations and bargain outside of the labour movement. If expelled, the correctional officers and police in unions affiliated with the labour federations could easily form powerful independent bodies or join the majority non-affiliated police associations. Currently, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) is facing a campaign by its member correctional officers to disaffiliate and create an independent corrections-only association.

As Ryan Hayes points out in Briarpatch Magazine, “In the United States, along with the call to expel police unions from the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), policy analysts have made the case for barring police associations from the right to collectively bargain. Others have called for limiting the scope of their bargaining to strictly wages and benefits.” But how will restricting the power of police officers to organize prevent the prison industrial complex from growing and further influencing policy, and disproportionately imprisoning racialized people? The right to bargain collectively is a universal right, not limited by ideology, so won’t attempts to curtail it set a dangerous precedent?

There are many union members who have been leading and coming out in support of movements against racism. However, many join as volunteers without bringing their local union or the larger labour movement along. In 2020, deaths at the hands of police in Canada and the United States made the call for defunding the police more urgent. The fact that the Canadian Labour Congress has issued a statement saying that unions should join the fight to defund the police is an opportunity. This statement is an opening for us, the progressive union members, the majority of whom work in the public sector, to bring the force of our locals and our unions to the fight against police violence.

If defunding police is officially adopted as a part of a union’s work, unions could bring staff resources, relationships with politicians and their staff, intimate knowledge of how to lobby and move different political bureaucracies to the movement. If the movement for racial justice successfully defunds police, it would grow long underfunded social service and public service sectors and budgets again, which makes economic sense for our locals and unions.

Successfully dismantling structural racism in police unions and in our work as unions more broadly will take sustained effort. Last year, many Canadian unions made important statements and launched renewed efforts toward these goals, but we must be willing to commit to making them a reality.

Source: What role do unions have in addressing systemic racism?

Class-action lawsuit claims French police discriminate often

Indeed:

In a first for France, six nongovernmental organizations launched a class-action lawsuit Wednesday against the French government for alleged systemic discrimination by police officers carrying out identity checks.

The organizations, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, contend that French police use racial profiling in ID checks, targeting Black people and people of Arab descent.

They were serving Prime Minister Jean Castex and France’s interior and justice ministers with formal legal notice of demands for concrete steps and deep law enforcement reforms to ensure that racial profiling does not determine who gets stopped by police.

The organizations, which also include the Open Society Justice Initiative and three French grassroots groups, plan to spell out the legal initiative at a news conference in Paris.

The issue of racial profiling by French police has been debated for years, including but not only the practice of officers performing identity checks on young people who are often Black or of Arab descent and live in impoverished housing projects.

Serving notice is the obligatory first step in a two-stage lawsuit process. The law gives French authorities four months to talk with the NGOs about meeting their demands. If the parties behind the lawsuit are left unsatisfied after that time, the case will go to court, according to one of the lawyers, Slim Ben Achour.

It’s the first class-action discrimination lawsuit based on or supposed ethnic origins in France. The NGO’s are employing a little-used 2016 French law that allows associations to take such a legal move.

“It’s revolutionary, because we’re going to speak for hundreds of thousands, even a million people.” Ben Achour told The Associated Press in a phone interview. The NGOs are pursuing the class action on behalf of racial minorities who are mostly second- or third-generation French citizens.

“The group is brown and Black,” Ben Achour said.

The four-month period for reaching a settlement could be prolonged if the talks are making progress, but if not, the NGOs will go to court, he said.

The abuse of identity checks has served for many in France as emblematic of broader alleged racism within police ranks, with critics claiming that misconduct has been left unchecked or whitewashed by authorities.

Video of a recent incident posted online drew a response from President Emmanuel Macron, who called racial profiling “unbearable.” Police representatives say officers themselves feel under attack when they show up in suburban housing projects. During a spate of confrontational incidents, officers became trapped and had fireworks and other objects thrown at them.

The NGOs are seeking reforms rather than monetary damages, especially changes in the law governing identity checks. The organizations argue the law is too broad and allows for no police accountability because the actions of officers involved cannot be traced, while the stopped individuals are left humiliated and sometimes angry.

Among other demands, the organizations want an end to the longstanding practice of gauging police performance by numbers of tickets issued or arrests made, arguing that the benchmarks can encourage baseless identity checks.

The lawsuit features some 50 witnesses, both police officers and people subjected to abusive checks, whose accounts are excerpted in the letters of notice. The NGO’s cite one unnamed person who spoke of undergoing multiple police checks every day for years.

A police officer posted in a tough Paris suburb who is not connected with the case told the AP that he is often subjected to ID checks when he is wearing civilian clothes.

“When I’m not in uniform, I’m a person of ,” said the officer, who asked to remain anonymous in keeping with police rules and due to the sensitive nature of the topic. Police need a legal basis for their actions, “but 80% of the time they do checks (based on) heads” — meaning how a person looks.

Omer Mas Capitolin, the head of Community House for Supportive Development, a grassroots NGO taking part in the legal action, called it a “mechanical reflex” for French police to stop non-whites, a practice he said is damaging to the person being checked and ultimately to relations between officers and the members of the public they are expected to protect.

“When you’re always checked, it lowers your self-esteem,” and you become a “second-class citizen,” Mas Capitolin said. The “victims are afraid to file complaints in this country even if they know what happened isn’t normal,” he said, because they fear fallout from police.

He credited the case of George Floyd, the Black American whose died last year in Minneapolis after a white police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck, with raising consciences and becoming a catalyst for change in France.

However, the NGOs make clear that they are not accusing individual police of being racist because “they act within a system that allowed these practices to spread and become installed,” the groups said in a joint document.

“It’s so much in the culture. They don’t ever think there’s a problem,” said Ben Achour, the lawyer.

Source: Class-action lawsuit claims French police discriminate often

From facial recognition, to predictive technologies, big data policing is rife with technical, ethical and political landmines

Good long read and overview of the major issues:

In mid-2019, an investigative journalism/tech non-profit called MuckRock and Open the Government (OTG), a non-partisan advocacy group, began submitting freedom of information requests to law enforcement agencies across the United States. The goal: to smoke out details about the use of an app rumoured to offer unprecedented facial recognition capabilities to anyone with a smartphone.

Co-founded by Michael Morisy, a former Boston Globe editor, MuckRock specializes in FOIs and its site has grown into a publicly accessible repository of government documents obtained under access to information laws.

As responses trickled in, it became clear that the MuckRock/OTG team had made a discovery about a tech company called Clearview AI. Based on documents obtained from Atlanta, OTG researcher Freddy Martinez began filing more requests, and discovered that as many as 200 police departments across the U.S. were using Clearview’s app, which compares images taken by smartphone cameras to a sprawling database of 3 billion open-source photographs of faces linked to various forms of personal information (e.g., Facebook profiles). It was, in effect, a point-click-and-identify system that radically transformed the work of police officers.

The documents soon found their way to a New York Times reporter named Kashmir Hill, who, in January 2020, published a deeply investigated feature about Clearview, a tiny and secretive start-up with backing from Peter Thiel, the Silicon Valley billionaire behind Paypal and Palantir Technologies. Among the story’s revelations, Hill disclosed that tech giants like Google and Apple were well aware that such an app could be developed using artificial intelligence algorithms feeding off the vast storehouse of facial images uploaded to social media platforms and other publicly accessible databases. But they had opted against designing such a disruptive and easily disseminated surveillance tool.

The Times story set off what could best be described as an international chain reaction, with widespread media coverage about the use of Clearview’s app, followed by a wave of announcements from various governments and police agencies about how Clearview’s app would be banned. The reaction played out against a backdrop of news reports about China’s nearly ubiquitous facial recognition-based surveillance networks.

Canada was not exempt. To Surveil and Predict, a detailed examination of “algorithmic policing” published this past fall by the University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, noted that officers with law enforcement agencies in Calgary, Edmonton and across Greater Toronto had tested Clearview’s app, sometimes without the knowledge of their superiors. Investigative reporting by the Toronto Star and Buzzfeed News found numerous examples of municipal law enforcement agencies, including the Toronto Police Service, using the app in crime investigations. The RCMP denied using Clearview even after it had entered into a contract with the company — a detail exposed by Vancouver’s The Tyee.

With federal and provincial privacy commissioners ordering investigations, Clearview and the RCMP subsequently severed ties, although Citizen Lab noted that many other tech companies still sell facial recognition systems in Canada. “I think it is very questionable whether [Clearview] would conform with Canadian law,” Michael McEvoy, British Columbia’s privacy commissioner, told the Star in February.

There was fallout elsewhere. Four U.S. cities banned police use of facial recognition outright, the Citizen Lab report noted. The European Union in February proposed a ban on facial recognition in public spaces but later hedged. A U.K. court in April ruled that police facial recognition systems were “unlawful,” marking a significant reversal in surveillance-minded Britain. And the European Data Protection Board, an EU agency, informed Commission members in June that Clearview’s technology violates Pan-European law enforcement policies. As Rutgers University law professor and smart city scholar Ellen Goodman notes “There’s been a huge blowback” against the use of data-intensive policing technologies.

There’s nothing new about surveillance or police investigative practices that draw on highly diverse forms of electronic information, from wire taps to bank records and images captured by private security cameras. Yet during the past decade or so, dramatic advances in big data analytics, biometrics and AI, stoked by venture capital and law enforcement agencies eager to invest in new technology, have given rise to a fast-growing data policing industry. As the Clearview story showed, regulation and democratic oversight have lagged far behind the technology.

U.S. startups like PredPol and HunchLab, now owned by ShotSpotter, have designed so-called “predictive policing” algorithms that use law enforcement records and other geographical data (e.g. locations of schools) to make statistical guesses about the times and locations of future property crimes. Palantir’s law-enforcement service aggregates and then mines huge data sets consisting of emails, court documents, evidence repositories, gang member databases, automated licence plate readers, social media, etc., to find correlations or patterns that police can use to investigate suspects.

Yet as the Clearview fallout indicated, big data policing is rife with technical, ethical and political landmines, according to Andrew Ferguson, a University of the District Columbia law professor. As he explains in his 2017 book, The Rise of Big Data Policing, analysts have identified an impressive list: biased, incomplete or inaccurate data, opaque technology, erroneous predictions, lack of governance, public suspicions about surveillance and over-policing, conflicts over access to proprietary algorithms, unauthorized use of data and the muddied incentives of private firms selling law enforcement software.

At least one major study found that some police officers were highly skeptical of predictive policing algorithms. Other critics point out that by deploying smart city sensors or other data-enabled systems, like transit smart cards, local governments may be inadvertently providing the police with new intelligence sources. Metrolinx, for example, has released Presto card user information to police while London’s Metropolitan Police has made thousands of requests for Oyster card data to track criminals, according to The Guardian. “Any time you have a microphone, camera or a live-feed, these [become] surveillance devices with the simple addition of a court order,” says New York civil rights lawyer Albert Cahn, executive director of the Surveillance Technology Oversight Project (STOP).

The authors of the Citizen Lab study, lawyers Kate Robertson, Cynthia Khoo and Yolanda Song, argue that Canadian governments need to impose a moratorium on the deployment of algorithmic policing technology until the public policy and legal frameworks can catch up.

Data policing was born in New York City in the early 1990s when then-police Commissioner William Bratton launched “Compstat,” a computer system that compiled up-to-date crime information then visualized the findings in heat maps. These allowed unit commanders to deploy officers to neighbourhoods most likely to be experiencing crime problems.

Originally conceived as a management tool that would push a demoralized police force to make better use of limited resources, Compstat is credited by some as contributing to the marked reduction in crime rates in the Big Apple, although many other big cities experienced similar drops through the 1990s and early 2000s.

The 9/11 terrorist attacks sparked enormous investments in security technology. The past two decades have seen the emergence of a multi-billion-dollar industry dedicated to civilian security technology, everything from large-scale deployments of CCTVs and cybersecurity to the development of highly sensitive biometric devices — fingerprint readers, iris scanners, etc. — designed to bulk up the security around factories, infrastructure and government buildings.

Predictive policing and facial recognition technologies evolved on parallel tracks, both relying on increasingly sophisticated analytics techniques, artificial intelligence algorithms and ever deeper pools of digital data.

The core idea is that the algorithms — essentially formulas, such as decision-trees, that generate predictions — are “trained” on large tranches of data so they become increasingly accurate, for example at anticipating the likely locations of future property crimes or matching a face captured in a digital image from a CCTV to one in a large database of headshots. Some algorithms are designed to use a set of rules with variables (akin to following a recipe). Others, known as machine learning, are programmed to learn on their own (trial and error).

The risk lies in the quality of the data used to train the algorithms — what was dubbed the “garbage-in-garbage-out” problem in a study by the Georgetown Law Center on Privacy and Technology. If there are hidden biases in the training data — e.g., it contains mostly Caucasian faces — the algorithm may misread Asian or Black faces and generate “false positives,” a well-documented shortcoming if the application involves a identifying a suspect in a crime.

Similarly, if a poor or racialized area is subject to over-policing, there will likely be more crime reports, meaning the data from that neighbourhood is likely to reveal higher-than-average rates of certain types of criminal activity, a data point that would justify more over-policing and racial profiling. Some crimes are under-reported, and don’t influence these algorithms.

Other predictive and AI-based law enforcement technologies, such as “social network analysis” — an individual’s web of personal relationships, gleaned, for example, from social media platforms or examined by cross-referencing of lists of gang members — promised to generate predictions that individuals known to police were at risk of becoming embroiled in violent crimes.

This type of sleuthing seemed to hold out some promise. In one study, criminologists at Cardiff University found that “disorder-related” posts on Twitter reflected crime incidents in metropolitan London — a finding that suggests how big data can help map and anticipate criminal activity. In practise, however, such surveillance tactics can prove explosive. This happened in 2016, when U.S. civil liberties groups revealed documents showing that Geofeedia, a location-based data company, had contracts with numerous police departments to provide analytics based on social media posts to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. Among the individuals targeted by the company’s data: protestors and activists. Chastened, the social media firms rapidly blocked Geofeedia’s access.

In 2013, the Chicago Police Department began experimenting with predictive models that assigned risk scores for individuals based on criminal records or their connections to people involved in violent crime. By 2019, the CPD had assigned risk scores to almost 400,000 people, and claimed to be using the information to surveil and target “at-risk” individuals (including potential victims) or connect them to social services, according to a January 2020 report by Chicago’s inspector general.

These tools can draw incorrect or biased inferences in the same way that overreliance on police checks in racialized neighbourhoods results in what could be described as guilt by address. The Citizen Lab study noted that the Ontario Human Rights Commission identified social network analysis as a potential cause of racial profiling. In the case of the CPD’s predictive risk model, the system was discontinued in 2020 after media reports and internal investigations showed that people were added to the list based solely on arrest records, meaning they might not even have been charged, much less convicted of a crime.

Early applications of facial recognition software included passport security systems or searches of mug shot databases. But in 2011, the Insurance Corporation of B.C. offered Vancouver police the use of facial recognition software to match photos of Stanley Cup rioters with driver’s licence images — a move that prompted a stern warning from the province’s privacy commissioner. In 2019, the Washington Post revealed that FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) investigators regarded state databases of digitized driver’s licences as a “gold mine for facial recognition photos” which had been scanned without consent.

In 2013, Canada’s federal privacy commissioner released a report on police use of facial recognition that anticipated the issues raised by Clearview app earlier in 2020. “[S]trict controls and increased transparency are needed to ensure that the use of facial recognition conforms with our privacy laws and our common sense of what is socially acceptable.” (Canada’s data privacy laws are only now being considered for an update.)

The technology, meanwhile, continues to gallop ahead. New York civil rights lawyer Albert Cahn points to the emergence of “gait recognition” systems, which use visual analysis to identify individuals by their walk; these systems are reportedly in use in China. “You’re trying to teach machines how to identify people who walk with the same gait,” he says. “Of course, a lot of this is completely untested.”

The predictive policing story evolved somewhat differently. The methodology grew out of analysis commissioned by the Los Angeles Police Department in the early 2010s. Two data scientists, Jeff Brantingham and George Mohler, used mathematical modelling to forecast copycat crimes based on data about the location and frequency of previous burglaries in three L.A. neighbourhoods. They published their results and soon set up PredPol to commercialize the technology. Media attention soon followed, as news stories played up the seemingly miraculous power of a Minority Report-like system that could do a decent job anticipating incidents of property crime.

Operationally, police forces used PredPol’s system by dividing up precincts in 150-square-metre “cells” that police officers were instructed to patrol more intensively during periods when PredPol’s algorithm forecast criminal activity. In the post-2009 credit crisis period, the technology seemed to promise that cash-strapped American municipalities would get more bang for their policing buck.

Other firms, from startups to multinationals like IBM, entered the market with innovations, for example, incorporating other types of data, such as socio-economic data or geographical features, from parks and picnic tables to schools and bars, that may be correlated to elevated incidents of certain types of crime. The reported crime data is routinely updated so the algorithm remains current.

Police departments across the U.S. and Europe have invested in various predictive policing tools, as have several in Canada, including Vancouver, Edmonton and Saskatoon. Whether they have made a difference is an open question. As with several other studies, a 2017 review by analysts with the Institute for International Research on Criminal Policy, at Ghent University in Belgium, found inconclusive results: some places showed improved results compared to more conventional policing, while in other cities, the use of predictive algorithms led to reduced policing costs, but little measurable difference in outcomes.

Revealingly, the city where predictive policing really took hold, Los Angeles, has rolled back police use on these techniques. Last spring, the LAPD tore up its contract with PredPol in the wake of mounting community and legal pressure from the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, which found that individuals who posed no real threat, mostly Black or Latino, were ending up on police watch lists because of flaws in the way the system assigned risk scores.

“Algorithms have no place in policing,” Coalition founder Hamid Khan said in an interview this summer with MIT Technology Review. “I think it’s crucial that we understand that there are lives at stake. This language of location-based policing is by itself a proxy for racism. They’re not there to police potholes and trees. They are there to police people in the location. So location gets criminalized, people get criminalized, and it’s only a few seconds away before the gun comes out and somebody gets shot and killed.” (Similar advocacy campaigns, including proposed legislation governing surveillance technology and gang databases, have been proposed for New York City.)

There has been one other interesting consequence: police resistance. B.C.-born sociologist Sarah Brayne, an assistant professor at the University of Texas (Austin), spent two-and-a-half years embedded with the LAPD, exploring the reaction of law enforcement officials to algorithmic policing techniques by conducting ride-alongs as well as interviews with dozens of veteran cops and data analysts. In results published last year, Brayne and collaborator Angèle Christin observed “strong processes of resistance fuelled by fear of professional devaluation and threats of performance tracking.”

Before shifts, officers were told which grids to drive through, when and how frequently, and the locations of their vehicles were tracked by an on-board GPS devices to ensure compliance. But Brayne found that some would turn off the tracking device, which they regarded with suspicion. Others just didn’t buy what the technology was selling. “Patrol officers frequently asserted that they did not need an algorithm to tell them where crime occurs,” she noted.

In an interview, Brayne said that police departments increasingly see predictive technology as part of the tool kit, despite questions about effectiveness or other concerns, like racial profiling. “Once a particular technology is created,” she observed,” there’s a tendency to use it.” But Brayne added one other prediction, which has to do with the future of algorithmic policing in the post-George Floyd era — “an intersection,” as she says, “between squeezed budgets and this movement around defunding the police.”

The widening use of big data policing and digital surveillance poses, according to Citizen Lab’s analysis as well as critiques from U.S. and U.K. legal scholars, a range of civil rights questions, from privacy and freedom from discrimination to due process. Yet governments have been slow to acknowledge these consequences. Big Brother Watch, a British civil liberties group, notes that in the U.K., the national government’s stance has been that police decisions about the deployment of facial recognition systems are “operational.”

At the core of the debate is a basic public policy principle: transparency. Do individuals have the tools to understand and debate the workings of a suite of technologies that can have tremendous influence over their lives and freedoms? It’s what Andrew Ferguson and others refer to as the “black box” problem. The algorithms, designed by software engineers, rely on certain assumptions, methodologies and variables, none of which are visible, much less legible to anyone without advanced technical know-how. Many, moreover, are proprietary because they are sold to local governments by private companies. The upshot is that these kinds of algorithms have not been regulated by governments despite their use by public agencies.

New York City Council moved to tackle this question in May 2018 by establishing an “automated decision systems” task force to examine how municipal agencies and departments use AI and machine learning algorithms. The task force was to devise procedures for identifying hidden biases and to disclose how the algorithms generate choices so the public can assess their impact. The group included officials from the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio, tech experts and civil liberties advocates. It held public meetings throughout 2019 and released a report that November. NYC was, by most accounts, the first city to have tackled this question, and the initiative was, initially, well received.

Going in, Cahn, the New York City civil rights lawyer, saw the task force as “a unique opportunity to examine how AI was operating in city government.” But he describes the outcome as “disheartening.” “There was an unwillingness to challenge the NYPD on its use of (automated decision systems).” Some other participants agreed, describing the effort as a waste.

If institutional obstacles thwarted an effort in a government the size of the City of New York, what does better and more effective oversight look like? A couple of answers have emerged.

In his book on big data policing, Andrew Ferguson writes that local governments should start at first principles, and urges police forces and civilian oversight bodies to address five fundamental questions, ideally in a public forum:

  • Can you identify the risks that your big data technology is trying to address?
  • Can you defend the inputs into the system (accuracy of data, soundness of methodology)?
  • Can you defend the outputs of the system (how they will impact policing practice and community relationships)?
  • Can you test the technology (offering accountability and some measure of transparency)?
  • Is police use of the technology respectful of the autonomy of the people it will impact?

These “foundational” questions, he writes, “must be satisfactorily answered before green-lighting any purchase or adopting a big data policing strategy.”

In addition to calling for a moratorium and a judicial inquiry into the uses of predictive policing and facial recognition systems, the authors of the Citizen Lab report made several other recommendations, including: the need for full transparency; provincial policies governing the procurement of such systems; limits on the use of ADS in public spaces; and the establishment of oversight bodies that include members of historically marginalized or victimized groups.

Interestingly, the federal government has made advances in this arena, which University of Ottawa law professor and privacy expert Teresa Scassa describes as “really interesting.”

The Treasury Board Secretariat in 2019 issued the “Directive on Automated Decision-Making,” which came into effect in April 2020, requires federal departments and agencies, except those involved in national security, to conduct “algorithmic impact assessments” (AIA) to evaluate unintended bias before procuring or approving the use of technologies that rely on AI or machine learning. The policy requires the government to publish AIAs, release software codes developed internally and continually monitor the performance of these systems. In the case of proprietary algorithms developed by private suppliers, federal officials have extensive rights to access and test the software.

In a forthcoming paper, Scassa points out that the directive includes due process rules and looks for evidence of whether systemic bias has become embedded in these technologies, which can happen if the algorithms are trained on skewed data. She also observes that not all algorithm-driven systems generate life-altering decisions, e.g., chatbots that are now commonly used in online application processes. But where they are deployed in “high impact” contexts such as policing, e.g., with algorithms that aim to identify individuals caught on surveillance videos, the policy requires “a human in the loop.”

The directive, says Scassa, “is getting interest elsewhere,” including the U.S. Ellen Goodman, at Rutgers, is hopeful this approach will gain traction with the Biden administration. In Canada, where provincial governments oversee law enforcement, Ottawa’s low-key but seemingly thorough regulation points to a way for citizens to shine a flashlight into the black box that is big data policing.

Source: From facial recognition, to predictive technologies, big data policing is rife with technical, ethical and political landmines

Germany: She Called Police Over a Neo-Nazi Threat. But the Neo-Nazis Were Inside the Police.

Disturbing:

Traveling for work and far from home, Seda Basay-Yildiz received a chilling fax at her hotel: “You filthy Turkish sow,” it read. “We will slaughter your daughter.”

A German defense lawyer of Turkish descent who specializes in Islamist terrorism cases, Ms. Basay-Yildiz was used to threats from the far right. But this one, which arrived late one night in August 2018, was different.

Signed with the initials of a former neo-Nazi terrorist group, it contained her address, which was not publicly available because of the earlier threats. Whoever sent it had access to a database protected by the state.

“I knew I had to take this seriously — they had our address, they knew where my daughter lives,” Ms. Basay-Yildiz recalled in an interview. “And so for the first time I actually called the police.”

It would bring her little sense of security: An investigation soon showed that the information had been retrieved from a police computer.

Far-right extremism is resurgent in Germany, in ways that are new and very old, horrifying a country that prides itself on dealing honestly with its murderous past. This month, a two-year parliamentary inquiry concluded that far-right networks had extensively penetrated German security services, including its elite special forces.

But increasingly, the spotlight is turning on Germany’s police, a much more sprawling and decentralized force with less stringent oversight than the military — and with a more immediate impact on the everyday safety of citizens, experts warn.

After World War II, the greatest preoccupation among the United States, its allies and Germans themselves was that the country’s police force never again be militarized, or politicized and used as a cudgel by an authoritarian state like the Gestapo.

Policing was fundamentally overhauled in West Germany after the war, and cadets across the country are now taught in unsparing detail about the shameful legacy of policing under the Nazis — and how it informs the mission and institution of policing today.

Still, Germany has been besieged by revelations of police officers in different corners of the country forming groups based on a shared far-right ideology.

“I always hoped that it was individual cases, but there are too many of them now,” said Herbert Reul, the interior minister of North-Rhine Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state, where 203 police officers are under investigation in connection with reported far-right incidents.

For Mr. Reul, the alarm sounded in September, when 31 officers in his state were found to have shared violent neo-Nazi propaganda. “It was almost an entire unit of officers — and we found out by chance,” Mr. Reul said this past week in an interview. “That floored me. This is not trivial.”

“We have a problem with far-right extremism,” he said. “I don’t know how far it reaches inside the institutions. But if we don’t deal with it, it will grow.”

It has been growing by the month.

The 31 officers in Mr. Reul’s western state were suspended in September for sharing images of Hitler, memes of a refugee in a gas chamber and the shooting of a Black man. The unit’s superior was part of the chat, too.

In October, a racist chat group with 25 officers was discovered in the Berlin police after one officer frustrated that superiors would not do anything about it blew the whistle. Separately, six cadets were kicked out of Berlin’s police academy after playing down the Holocaust and sharing images of swastikas in a chat group that had 26 other members.

In November, a police station in the western city of Essen was raided after images of ammunition and benches arranged to form swastikas were discovered in a WhatsApp chat. This past week, a violent far-right chat with four police officers in the northern cities of Kiel and Neumünster was discovered. Ammunition and Nazi memorabilia were found in raids of the homes of two officers.

Much focus has been on the state of Hesse, home to Ms. Basay-Yildiz, who lives in Frankfurt, and a number of other high-profile targets of neo-Nazi threats.

Ms. Basay-Yildiz is intimately familiar with discrimination in Germany.

When she was just 10 years old, her parents, guest workers from Turkey, took the young Seda to help translate when they went to buy car insurance. The salesman declined to sell it to them. “We don’t want foreigners,” he told them.

“So I decided that I want to know what kind of rights I have in Germany,” Ms. Basay-Yildiz recalled. She went to the library, found an agency to file a complaint and got her parents the insurance they wanted.

It was then she knew what she wanted to do with her life.

She rose to prominence as a lawyer when she represented the family of a Turkish flower seller who was shot at his roadside stand. He was the first victim of the National Socialist Underground, known as the N.S.U., a neo-Nazi terrorist group that killed 10 people, nine of them immigrants, between 2000 and 2007.

Police forces across Germany blamed immigrants, failing to recognize that the perpetrators were wanted neo-Nazis, while paid informers of the intelligence service helped hide the group’s leaders. Files on the informers were shredded by the intelligence service within days of the story’s exploding into the public in 2011.

After a five-year trial that ended only in July 2018, Ms. Basay-Yildiz won her clients modest compensation but not what they had most hoped for: answers.

“How big was that network and what did state institutions know?” said Ms. Basay-Yildiz. “After 438 days in court we still don’t know.”

Three weeks after the trial finished, she received her first threat by fax. They have not stopped since. Ms. Basay-Yildiz represents precisely the kind of change in Germany that the far right despises.

But she is not the only one. Police computers in Hesse have been used to call up data on a Turkish-German comedian, Idil Baydar, as well as a left-wing politician, Janine Wissler, who both received threats. The police president of the state failed to report it for months. He had to resign in July. 

Most of the threats, including those to Ms. Basay-Yildiz, have come in the form of emails signed “NSU 2.0.”

In all, the state government has been looking into 77 cases of far-right extremism in its police force since 2015. This past summer it named a special investigator whose team is focused solely on the email threats.

When investigators discovered that Ms. Basay-Yildiz’s information had been called up on a computer in Frankfurt’s first precinct an hour and a half before she received the threat, the police officer who had been logged on at the time was suspended. The whole police station was searched and computers and cellphones were analyzed, leading to the suspension of five more officers. Later in the year, the number grew to 38.

Ms. Basay-Yildiz is not reassured.

“If you have 38 people, you have a structural problem,” she said. “And if you don’t realize this, nothing will change.”

Others, too, fear that the infiltration of police ranks poses special dangers for Germany, not least a creeping subversion of state institutions that are supposed to serve and protect the public.

“These far-right calls for resistance to public servants are an attempt to subvert the state from the inside,” said Stephan Kramer, head of the intelligence agency of the eastern state of Thuringia. “The risk of infiltration is real and has to be taken seriously.”

Like the military, the police have been aggressively courted by the far-right Alternative for Germany party, known by its German initials, AfD, since its founding in 2013. Four of the AfD’s 88 lawmakers in the federal Parliament are former police officers — nearly 5 percent compared with less than 2 percent in all other parties.

Penetrating state institutions, especially those with guns, has been part of the party’s strategy from the start. Especially in eastern states, a more extremist AfD has already made deep inroads into the police force.

Björn Höcke, a history teacher turned firebrand politician who runs the AfD in the eastern state of Thuringia, has repeatedly appealed to police officers and intelligence agents to resist the orders of the government, which he calls “the real enemies of democracy and freedom.”

Then, there is the question of whether the police force can adequately police itself. Despite strong evidence in her case, Ms. Basay-Yildiz notes, the perpetrators have not been identified.

The officer who had been logged into the work station that had been used to access Ms. Basay-Yildiz’s home address, and the names and birthdays of her daughter, husband, mother and father, turned out to be part of a WhatsApp group containing half a dozen police officers who shared racist, neo-Nazi content.

One image showed Hitler on a rainbow with the caption “Good night, you Jews.” There were images of concentration camp inmates and images mocking drowned refugees and people with Down syndrome.

The officers were suspended and interrogated. They offered multiple alibis — requests for information are so numerous, they could not recall accessing the information; many officers can use the same computer.

The investigation stalled.

“It was absurd,” Ms. Basay-Yildiz said. “I have to assume that they did not treat these suspects as they would treat other suspects because they are colleagues.”

More frightening than the threats, Ms. Basay-Yildiz said, was her growing sense that the police were shielding far-right extremists in their ranks.

She was never even shown photos of the officers in question, who remain suspended on reduced pay, she said.

The threats kept coming, sometimes every few months, sometimes weekly. She moved her family to another part of town. Her new address was even more protected than the old one. Ordinary police computers could no longer call it up. For 18 months, she felt safe.

But early this year that changed: Whoever was threatening her had identified her new address and made sure she knew it.

This time the police came back and said her address had not been accessed internally.

“The circle of those inside the security services with access to my details is very small,” she noted. One would think that would make it easier to find the perpetrator. But she is not optimistic.

“I live in Hesse,” she said. “We saw what happened here.”

Last February a far-right gunman killed nine people of immigrant descent in two shisha bars in the city of Hanau, near Frankfurt.

In June 2019, Walter Lübcke, a regional politician who had defended Chancellor Angela Merkel’s refugee policy, was fatally shot on his front porch two hours northeast of Frankfurt after years of death threats.

On Nov. 11, Ms. Basay-Yildiz received her latest threat. It opened with “Heil Hitler!” and closed with “Say hi to your daughter from me.”

When she reported it to the police, their assessment was that she and her daughter were in no concrete danger.

“But I can’t rely on that anymore,” Ms. Basay-Yildiz said. “It’s a great factor of insecurity: Who can I trust? And who can I call if I can’t trust the police?”

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/21/world/europe/germany-far-right-neo-nazis-police.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage

Police forces across Canada are still overwhelmingly white and male, new report shows

Long standing issue. Numbers in larger cities are of course better than those in smaller cities:

Canada’s police forces are far behind in being representative of the populations they serve, new data from Statistics Canada shows.

According to data on police resources in Canada for 2019 released Tuesday, police services across the country are overwhelmingly white and male. They still have low numbers when it comes to officers identifying as women, visible minorities and Indigenous.

The population of older police officers has also been climbing since data on age was first collected in 2012. Officers over the age of 50 made up 18 per cent of officers in 2019.

The amount of women police officers has been on the rise since 1986, when gender data was first collected and they accounted for just 4 per cent of officers.

Between 2018 and 2019, the amount of women rose by 325, making them a total of 22 per cent of all police officers. That is still behind considering women account for half of the total population.

Representation of Indigenous police officers across the country was approaching parity with the total population: four per cent of officers and three per cent of recruits self-identified as Indigenous. Five per cent of the country’s population is Indigenous.

Meanwhile, visible minorities are drastically under represented, accounting for just eight per cent of officers and 11 per cent of new recruits in 2019. Visible minorities are 22.3 per cent of the population according to the 2016 census.

Among the police services where the percentage of visible minority officers was higher, it was still about half as much as the region’s entire population of visible minorities.

The percentage of visible minority officers was 26 per cent in Vancouver, 26 per cent in Toronto and 19 per cent in York Region, while the 2016 census shows the overall population of visible minorities is 48 per cent, 51 per cent and 49 per cent, respectively.

In August, the Ontario Human Rights Commission declared that based on investigations into the Toronto Police Service, Black people were disproportionately likely to be arrested, charged, injured or killed by police, despite being only eight per cent of the city’s population.

The Commission called on the service, the police board and the city to formally establish a process with Black communities and the OHRC “to adopt legally binding remedies” to change the practices and culture of policing, and “eliminate systemic racism and anti-Black racial bias in policing.”

The new data from Statistics Canada did not specify how many Canadian officers identified as white, but subtracting Indigenous and visible minorities, the proportion of officers that remain is 88 per cent and 86 per cent of recruits.

The race of police officers can have an impact on the experience of members of the communities they police. For example in the U.S., researcher Mark Hoekstraexamined more than two million 911 calls in two U.S. cities and found that white officers dispatched to Black neighbourhoods fired their guns five times more oftenthan Black officers sent on similar calls in similar neighbourhoods.

Source: Police forces across Canada are still overwhelmingly white and male, new report shows

NYPD Study: Implicit Bias Training Changes Minds, Not Necessarily Behavior

Significant study, highlighting the apparent lack of change in behaviour following implicit bias training, with some good discussion of the limitations and implications:

As U.S. law enforcement departments are accused of racist policing, one of the most common responses by the people in charge has been to have officers take “implicit bias” training.

The training usually consists of a seminar in the psychological theory that unconscious stereotypes can lead people to make dangerous snap judgments. For instance, unconscious associations of African Americans with crime might make cops quicker to see them as suspects.

After the 2014 Ferguson, Mo., protests, states rushed to require the training. Now a majority do, with New Jersey joining the list late last month.

But despite the boom in implicit bias training, there has been little real-life research into whether it actually changes what police officers do on the job.

“It’s like I’m offering you a pill to fix some disease, and I haven’t tested to see whether it actually works,” says Joshua Correll, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Colorado Boulder, where he studies racial bias. “Expecting that we can take people in and train them to reduce their implicit bias — I don’t think it’s been supported by the literature.”

That’s why Correll is excited about a new study at the New York Police Department that allowed researchers to track the effects of mandatory implicit bias training as it was implemented in 2018.

Their findings? As measured in surveys before and after their training, NYPD officers expressed more awareness of the concept of implicit bias and greater willingness to try to manage it.

“We could certainly say that the training can be credited with elevating officers’ comprehension of what implicit bias is,” says Robert E. Worden, director of the John F. Finn Institute for Public Safety in Albany, N.Y., and the lead author of the study.

But then the researchers examined data about NYPD officers’ actions on the job before and after the training. Specifically, they looked at a breakdown of the ethnic disparities among the people who were arrested and had other kinds of interactions with those officers. And in those numbers, they found no meaningful change.

“It’s fair to say that we could not detect effects of the training on officers’ enforcement behaviors,” says Worden.

Worden calls it a “null result”: It doesn’t prove implicit bias training changes cops’ behavior, but it doesn’t disprove it either.

The trainers are undeterred.

“We believe that our training reduces biased behavior on the streets of the jurisdictions where we train,” says Lorie Fridell, the University of South Florida criminology professor who developed the “Fair and Impartial Policing” curriculum used in New York. “That the research didn’t detect those changes in behavioral outcomes does not mean that they did not occur.”

She points to the inherent difficulties in measuring real-life outcomes in policing, especially in a place like New York. Multiple other variables may have clouded the data, such as the city’s preexisting efforts to reduce race as a factor in police stops.

The NYPD brass also doesn’t seem to be bothered by the lack of change in behaviors.

“That wasn’t the objective,” says First Deputy Commissioner Benjamin B. Tucker. “The training was designed just to have them do some self-reflection and just to understand that any biases that they may have may creep into their job,” he says. “That awareness, we think, adds value in and of itself.”

Tucker says the training is worth the $5.5 million it costs per year.

Anecdotally, police officers around the U.S. are getting used to the training and even warming to it.

“I think that even the most cynical cop out there would agree that prejudice on the street is a problem and you’ve got to try to do something,” says Adam Plantinga, a San Francisco police sergeant who writes about policing.

Plantinga says his department’s training was “pretty good,” because it helped officers explore the unconscious associations that might affect their split-second decisions.

“If we approach a suspect who’s reaching for his pocket,” he says, “does that white suspect get a second or two more of a grace period than the suspect of color, before we draw our gun?”

But from a purely utilitarian perspective, do such moments of “self-reflection,” as the NYPD’s Tucker put it, actually lead to fairer policing, especially given the unresolved debate among researchers about how — or even whether — implicit bias governs behavior?

Correll, the psychology professor, says the training itself probably doesn’t hurt, but there’s an opportunity cost to consider, especially if the effort to “fix” implicit bias in officers displaces other kinds of training or gives a city an excuse to ignore factors that are external to policing.

“You don’t need to intervene at the level of the individual [police officer’s] brain,” Correll says. “You need to intervene at the level of the culture,” such as grappling with the reasons certain communities have more encounters with the police, such as poverty or public housing policies that end up concentrating particular ethnic groups in crime-prone areas.

Even one of the pioneers of the theory of implicit bias, Harvard University psychology professor Mahzarin Banaji, worries about the quality of implicit bias training for police.

“The teaching [of implicit bias concepts] has been in the hands of people called ‘diversity trainers,’ and they’re like politicians — they don’t have to have any expertise,” Banaji says, referring to the decentralized, entrepreneurial reality of the world of police consultants and trainers.

She doesn’t like the fact that departments usually make the training mandatory. That’s likely to create resistance, she says, and it defeats the goal of convincing officers that they stand to benefit from understanding their unconscious biases and learning ways to compensate for them.

At the same time, she says, even the best implicit bias training shouldn’t be expected to produce immediate changes in the behaviors of a whole police department.

“That, to me, is like saying, ‘Can I give you a lecture on climate change?’ and tomorrow you’re going to stop driving your car and start taking public transportation,” she says. “I don’t think the question is commensurate with the behavior that they’re measuring.”

She believes there are still years of research ahead before we can say we know how to deal effectively with implicit bias.

Others are trying to make progress on that. Following the NYPD study, the next major attempt to test the effectiveness of implicit bias training on police is work being done by Lois James, at Washington State University. She’s one of the developers of Counter Bias Training Simulation, a curriculum that uses video scenarios in shooting simulators to show officers the dangers created by implicit bias.

The hope is that a more hands-on experience will have a deeper impact, but she’s not assuming it works.

“As someone who’s literally developed an implicit bias program, [I think] it would be irresponsible for us to not test the outcome,” James says. “It can’t be just speculation.”

She’s in the middle of an experiment with the Sacramento Police Department in which some officers will get her simulator-based training, some will get traditional, seminar-style implicit bias training and some will get neither. Then her graduate students will review the body camera videos of officers’ interactions with the public — before and after the training period — and score them for how civilly the officers treat each ethnic group.

James says she finds it “disheartening” that the NYPD study found no behavioral change, and she says, “Many people are expecting me to find nothing too, but we’ll see.”

Even if her study also finds no behavioral change, she says, “it doesn’t mean we should eradicate implicit bias training. It just means we have to work harder.”

Source: NYPD Study: Implicit Bias Training Changes Minds, Not Necessarily Behavior

Kay: Exploiting a Woman’s Deadly Fall to Smear Toronto’s Police

An interesting account of police training, the social work side of policing,  and an equally important discussion of the rush to apply a simple race lens rather than a more comprehensive look at the evidence and issues involved.

While it is necessary and legitimate to question police practices, both systemic and particular, and while any death related to policing is a human tragedy, one should neither assume that all incidents involving the police are racist or that none of them are:

A few years ago, when I did ride-alongs with Toronto-area police officers, I saw how much of their job involves dealing with mental-health and addiction issues. Most of the incidents these officers responded to were rooted in a troubled household, and the protagonists typically were well-known to the arriving officers: an autistic adult son whose outbursts overwhelmed aging parents, a wife fearful of an alcoholic husband, an agitated elderly man who’d become convinced his neighbours were spying on him through his devices. Most of these incidents required therapists as much as (or more than) police officers. But since the threat of violence hovered over all of them, at least in theory, it was the police who got the call. As I wrote at the time, the officers mostly played the role of social workers with a badge.

The stereotype of police as violent, poorly trained hotheads is sometimes borne out on YouTube, which now functions as a highlight reel for every bad apple wearing a uniform. But the reality—at least in Canada, where I live—is that new officers are typically post-secondary graduates who spend a lot of their time in training sessions. In 2016, I sat in on one such session at a police headquarters facility west of Toronto, where officers attend seminars conducted by experts from within the community, and then go through elaborate small-group role-playing scenarios led by a trained corps of actors who specialize in mimicking various crisis states. As I reported in a magazine article, the facility features a mock-up house with different rooms, so officers can perform their exercises in realistic domestic environments. When each role-playing scenario was completed, the officers were critiqued and interviewed in front of the entire group. Then the actor herself would give her impressions about how the officers’ behaviour made her feel.

I thought about all this following the real-life case of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, the 29-year-old black woman who fell to her death from a Toronto apartment balcony in May while seeking to evade police officers. During one role-playing session I observed four years ago, an actor seeking to evade officers under similar circumstances ran into a bathroom and locked the door. For five minutes, the officers awkwardly tried to coax her out, meeting with eventual success. In the analysis segment that followed, the supervising officer explained that it once was common practice for officers in such situations to simply bash open the door. But this kind of technique fell out of fashion years ago, since it led to unnecessary trauma and risk (for the officers as much as the bathroom occupant).

Some of the other acted exercises I observed included a paranoid schizophrenic crouching under a kitchen table, babbling fearfully as officers tried to soothe him, and a homeless woman who threatened to hurt herself with a knife if officers approached. While holding them at bay from her perch on a living-room sofa, the actress recited a backstory: She had nothing to live for because child services had taken away her kid, her only reason for hope. When she finally put away the knife, the officers walked forward to escort her away—at which point the supervisor ended the exercise and admonished them: “Yes, she put away that knife,” he said. “But how do you know that’s the only weapon she’s got? When you focus on the object, you forget about the person.”

There was also a memorable exercise involving a male actor who was threatening to jump from a window—which presents another grim point of analogy to the Korchinski-Paquet case. It is a mark of this man’s acting skill that, years after I watched his morbid star turn, I still remember the details of his narrative: He was a musician, suffering from depression, who was stuck pursuing a dead-end part-time position with a local orchestra.

Critically, he wasn’t the only actor who was part of this particular exercise. An older woman played the role of his mother, who was screaming non-stop as the officers arrived. Two pairs of officers did the exercise in succession, and their approaches were very different. The first pair—two men who’d recently joined the force—both approached the man and took turns imploring him to step down from the window. But they could barely make themselves heard over the screaming of the actor playing the mother role. Then came the second pair of officers, middle-aged women who’d apparently worked together on the beat. One of the women spoke to the man, while the other officer gently guided the mother off into another room. This was correct practice, the instructor said: You can’t make any progress if you’re just going to become bystanders to an ongoing drama. In many cases, you need to separate the family members before you can help them.

It’s the same principle I saw (and wrote about) when I observed two veteran officers show up at the (very real) home of a young couple who’d been fighting. The man, plainly troubled in all sorts of ways, had punched a hole in the wall, and the woman was frightened. One of the first things that happened upon our arrival was that the female officer—Constable Jaime Peach, who still serves on the Peel Police—took the man downstairs and interviewed him in the lobby. The other officer, Winston Fullinfaw (who was promoted to Staff Sergeant around the time I rode with him), interviewed the woman and learned about her complicated family situation. Had there been more adults in the household, it’s possible that more officers would have been dispatched: When it comes to complicated domestic disputes, sometimes there is no substitute for manpower. A beleaguered lone officer sometimes may become more prone to violence, since he is more likely to lose control of a situation and feel threatened.

This is something we should think about amid claims that society would be more peaceful if we simply got rid of the police, or starved it of funding. We should also think about how such police forces would respond to funding cuts. Training programs would be one of the first things to face the chopping block. Would that make anyone safer?

On May 27, the last day of Korchinski-Paquet’s life, a half-dozen Toronto Police Service officers and an EMS worker responded to a call from her family members, who’d told a 911 operator that there was a fight in their 24th-storey apartment. Because Ontario’s independent Special Investigations Unit (SIU) now has released its report on Korchinski-Paquet’s death, based on camera footage and numerous interviews, we know what happened next. As the Toronto Sun accurately reportedback in early June, Korchinski-Paquet asked to take a bathroom break before accompanying the officers downtown for mental-health treatment. She then barricaded a door, went onto her balcony, and slipped while trying to step onto another balcony, falling 24 floors to her death. Initial reports from family—which suggested that officers had murdered the woman by deliberately pushing her off the balcony—were completely false.

To state the obvious, the death of Korchinski-Paquet is a tragedy. And it would have compounded the tragedy to learn that her death was a racist act of homicide. One might therefore imagine that it would provide Torontonians with at least some meager solace to learn that their police force had acquitted itself without fault, and in a way that reflected the progressive, non-violent methods that are taught in training programs. But in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd and the riots that followed, it has become a common claim among progressive media and politicians that Canada is every bit as racist as the United States. And in the absence of actual recent Canadian scenes of horror on par with the killing of Floyd, the case of Korchinski-Paquet has been cited as a substitute.

The Toronto Star, which never misses a chance to hustle racism claims to its readers, has run features with titles such as “Regis Korchinski-Paquet’s death and anti-Black violence in policing,” informing us “how systemic racism and anti-Black violence continues to play a huge role in Canada.” In a Star op-ed published in early June, opinion writer Noa Mendelsohn Aviv explicitly rejected the proposition that “in order to comment on Regis’s death, we must wait for the result of the Special Investigation Unit’s investigation because we do not yet have the facts and need to ascertain the truth.” (Even when the SIU report came out, the Star could not bear to abandon its anti-police posture, and so now is impugning the credibility of the SIU.) A Maclean’s writer described Korchinski-Paquet’s death as evidence that “Black lives” are “expendable.” The SIU investigation shows nothing of the kind, even if I doubt we will see any retractions.

Perhaps the most appalling response—because it comes from someone who purports to be seeking the job of Canadian prime minister—was from Jagmeet Singh, leader of Canada’s progressive New Democratic Party (NDP). On August 26, after the SIU released its report, Singh blithely claimed that Regis Korchinski-Paquet “died because of police intervention. She needed help and her life was taken instead. The SIU’s decision brings no justice to the family and it won’t prevent this from happening again.” Singh offered no theory as to why the SIU report was wrong, but simply delivered a flat-out blood libel against the officers who’d tried to help Korchinski-Paquet on May 27 (and who are likely traumatized by what happened, as any normal person would be). To repeat: This isn’t some college activist or aggrieved family member. It is the leader of a national Canadian political party who holds the balance of power in Canada’s minority Parliament.

Singh is in some ways a special case, because his NDP, having strayed so far from the unionized blue-collar base on which it was founded, now has been reduced to little more than a social-media outpost catering to college hashtaggers. For weeks, in 2017, he spouted conspiracist nonsense about the 1985 bombing of Air India Flight 182, the worst terrorist attack in Canadian history. More recently, he casually denounced the Royal Canadian Mounted Police as a gang of bigots, and then was ejected from Parliament when he accused a fellow Parliamentarian of being racist because he didn’t go along with Singh’s slur. But though comprising an extreme example, Singh is hardly alone. Indeed, the presumption that all police are, by their nature, contaminated by racist malignancy, has become a casually recited starting point in debates about crime and policing.

In regard to the actual goal of reforming police methods—which is the thing that Singh and everyone else pretends to care about—it’s worth taking stock of the damage wrought by this irresponsible approach. About one Torontonian dies every year during encounters with police, this in a city of three-million people. That’s about one tenth the average annual tally for Minneapolis, a city that is one seventh the size of Toronto. One might think that a 70-fold difference in per-capita police-involved deaths might be seen as statistically significant, and be reasonably attributed to the massive investments in training and professionalism that I have personally witnessed in Canadian constabularies. If best practices in Toronto spread to American cities, lives truly could be saved. But instead, progressives such as Singh are far more interested in polluting Twitter with lazy lies and protest applause lines that erase any distinction between policing methods.

Information about the death of Korchinski-Paquet may be found on the web site of Ontario’s SIU. And if there are lessons to be gleaned about how to better respond to potentially violent family crises, our leaders should implement them. But so far, police critics seem far more interested in exploiting this poor woman’s death to advance their own ideological bona fides and defame innocent police officers than with preventing future tragedies.

Source: Exploiting a Woman’s Deadly Fall to Smear Toronto’s Police

Police service boards grapple with diversity, inclusion amid calls for change

Source: Police service boards grapple with diversity, inclusion amid calls for change