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

Saunders: How was a neo-Nazi threat ignored for years? Because it looked so familiar


For Berlin actor Idil Nuna Baydar, the past year has been a sequence of escalating shocks, at first private and horrific, which in recent weeks have been shared with millions of other Germans.

The first shock came last year, when she received a series of detailed death threats via private contact information known only to family members. The first was signed “SS Ostubaf,” a Nazi-era paramilitary rank. Other threats were signed “NSU 2.0,” a reference to the National Socialist Underground, a far-right terrorist cell that murdered at least 10 people across Germany between 2000 and 2011.

The threats became more specific, containing information (such as the name of Ms. Baydar’s mother) that was not known to the public. Dozens of other Germans, including lawyers and politicians, received threats from the same source, typically saying they would be killed because of their ethnicity or support for immigration. Ms. Baydar filed a police complaint; the investigation was dropped, without charges, at the end of 2019.

The second shock came when she learned this year that the threats had come from within the police. Her personal information had been obtained from an unauthorized query made on a computer database within a police station in Hesse, the western German state that includes Frankfurt. A newspaper later confirmed that the queries had been made by police officials.

Newspapers, and then public investigators, gradually found out that the “NSU 2.0” group is linked to a national chat network in which members exchanged messages of racial intolerance, extreme-right and neo-Nazi allegiance and sometimes threats of violence. Members of the group allegedly include active German police and military officials.

Some members of the group are allegedly also members of other known extremist groups, including one calling itself the Ku Klux Klan, the outlawed neo-Nazi group Combat 18, and a “prepper” group known as Northern Cross, which believes that there will soon be a complete societal breakdown, perhaps triggered by the group’s actions, and plans to implement something resembling the Third Reich in its aftermath.

Police and government officials until recently played down the incidents and organizational affiliations, claiming that no known far-right networks existed within the police and military.

Over the spring, this argument began to fall apart as investigations revealed just how extensive, and deeply infiltrated into German state institutions, these networks are. On June 14, the Hesse chief of police, Udo Munch, resigned over this.

The final shock for Ms. Baydar came during the past few weeks, when she, along with the rest of Germany, learned that these extremist networks were not just exchanging bigoted memes and making idle threats.

On July 1, German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer announced she would disband one of the companies of Germany’s most elite special-forces unit, the KSK, and forbid the entire unit from participating in any military operations, because it had become so infested with active neo-Nazis.

The military counterintelligence service revealed that at least 600 soldiers are being investigated for extreme-right activities, and that the chat network that united extremist groups had been set up within the KSK.

It emerged that 62 kilograms of explosives and 48,000 rounds of ammunition had disappeared from the KSK, allegedly taken by extreme-right groups. Other military officers were found to be storing huge caches of weapons and ammunition along with Hitler memorabilia.

The “prepper” group Northern Cross, previously seen as extreme but nutty, was said to have amassed tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition, built fortresses and training camps, and had drawn up lists of “enemies” to be executed on “Day X,” or the day of Germany’s societal breakdown; last week it emerged that they had purchased body bags and quicklime for this task.

Germans are now asking the question that has long alarmed Ms. Baydar and other targets: How, in a country where even the slightest hint of Nazi-era racial politics is highly illegal and unconstitutional, were they permitted to thrive for so long, when they did very little to conceal themselves?

It seems that it’s because their language and messages had become so commonplace and mainstream. The notion that people of other ethnic or religious groups are “invaders,” once an unmistakable signal of illegal extremism because it was the animating idea behind Hitler’s rise, is now uttered by members of a legal political party, the AfD, and is heard in mainstream right-wing media.

It has international sanction, too: The man chosen by Donald Trump to be the U.S. ambassador to Germany, Douglas Macgregor, has described religious-minority Europeans as “invaders” in language similar to that heard on the chat network.

It’s a situation Germany has seen before: a violent cancer went unnoticed within the state because its messages had become so numbingly familiar. What we need to be on guard for, in every country, is not just the threat of intolerance, but also the sense of numbness and indifference that allows it to thrive.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-how-was-a-neo-nazi-threat-ignored-for-years-because-it-looked-so/

Racial disparity in Vancouver drug charges revealed by new data

Nuanced analysis of the data and disparities:

Black and Indigenous people are dramatically overrepresented in drug charges recommended by Vancouver police, an analysis of new data shows.

The police say, and some experts agree, that these findings are not evidence of racial bias in the Vancouver Police Department, but instead reflect inequalities and failings in broader Canadian society. Others say those wider problems don’t absolve police in Vancouver or elsewhere of a need to confront racism within their own institutions.

These findings emerge from data obtained from the VPD and provided to Postmedia by a University of B.C. PhD student, Ryan Moyer, who said he filed the FOI request “to better investigate the disproportionate impacts of punitive drug policy.”

“While we cannot infer that the overrepresentation of Indigenous and Black communities in drug-related crimes is due to racism specifically,” Moyer said, the “disproportionately frequent interactions” with these populations is concerning and shows the need for more cultural training and more dialogue with leaders of these communities.

In B.C., police do not decide on charges. Instead they make recommendations to Crown counsels, who then decide whether to approve charges. Moyer’s FOI records include 1,268 files where VPD recommended a range of drug charges, 76 per cent of which were approved and went to court, 17 per cent were pending or unknown and seven per cent were not approved by Crown.

In mid-June, Vancouver Police Chief Adam Palmer talked to Postmedia about racism and policing. Palmer said that while he believes systemic racism doesn’t exist in Canadian policing, racism is still a problem in Canada.

VPD officers undergo more extensive training than other B.C. police agencies on issues including implicit bias, cultural competency and sensitivity, and Indigenous culture, Palmer said then.

Palmer also pointed to broader societal problems that can precede the point in a person’s life when they encounter a cop: “The police officer (is) sometimes dealing with the end result of 20 years of trouble that that person has gone through.”

Palmer is not wrong there, said University of Toronto criminologist Akwasi Owusu-Bempah.

“The chief makes a great point: The police are left to deal with many of society’s failures, and if those societal failures have racially disparate outcomes, then policing is going to have racially disparate outcomes as well,” said Owusu-Bempah.

However, he was surprised Palmer so forcefully denied systemic racism in Canadian policing, considering “the police are a microcosm of society.”

The stakes are high, Owusu-Bempah said, because drug charges, even those resulting in acquittals, can have long-lasting affects on a person’s prospects for employment, education and housing. This adds urgency, he said, to calls to decriminalize, or as he’d prefer, fully legalize all drugs in Canada.

On that point, the data show drug possession charges in Vancouver have fallen sharply in recent years: VPD recommended 142 possession charges in 2015 but only 36 last year, a 75 per cent reduction. In the first half of this year, only 10 possession charges recommended.

“I think (the VPD) should be commended for that approach. But it raises questions of who doesn’t benefit from that?” Owusu-Bempah said. “It seems like decriminalization’s in practice for some, but not for others.”

It’s a good thing this data has now been made public through Moyer’s FOI request, Owusu-Bempah said, “because if they don’t make it public, we can’t identify problems.”

The public should be careful of drawing the wrong conclusions from this data, said VPD spokeswoman Simi Heer.

“It’s simplistic to compare the percentages related to the data in the spreadsheet based on ethnicity,” without taking into account several “long-standing, complex issues,” Heer said.

“Canada has a troubling history of systemic discrimination against Indigenous Peoples,” Heer said. “We recognize that this discrimination continues to perpetuate significant problems today, including overrepresentation in all aspects of the criminal justice system, the homeless population, and more recently, the number of overdoses during the fentanyl crisis.”

“The VPD’s approach on drug issues has been to target the most serious harms to society, as the number of deaths in our communities related to the fentanyl crisis have reached crisis proportions,” Heer said. “This means we’ve been targeting drug trafficking, drug production and organized crime.”

Heer also pointed to the preliminary findings of Metro Vancouver’s homeless count released this week, showing Black and Indigenous people were significantly overrepresented in the region’s homeless population.

The overrepresentation of Black and Indigenous people in both drug charges and homeless populations are “totally connected,” said Neil Boyd, a lawyer and Simon Fraser University professor of criminology.

Boyd said he can’t say racism definitely doesn’t exist in the VPD, but these statistics don’t definitively prove that it does.

“The disproportionate numbers, there might be people who would want to argue that reflects a kind of racism, but I think if it’s racism, it’s not racism within the police department, it’s the racism of our culture, in which we see such an overrepresentation of Indigenous and Black people on the street,” said Boyd.

People from all walks of Canadian society buy, sell, and use drugs, but the police are more likely to come into contact with people with fewer resources, and especially less access to private space, Boyd said. In other words, officers are far more likely to come across a homeless person selling opioids to support his own addiction than an affluent person in a Yaletown condo buying cocaine for a night out.

Others say these racial disparities underscore how much work remains to be done to combat racism and oppression in Canada.

“What we’re seeing is a continuation of oppression,” said Patricia Vickers, a psychotherapist and the First Nations Health Authority’s former director of mental health and wellness services. “Nothing has really changed all that much, as far as our relationships go. When we look at reconciliation, we’re not really seeing what that means in society.”

“The incarceration of Indigenous people is just another symptom of this continuation of domination, control, oppression,” Vickers said. “This is just one of the pieces of evidence we have.”

Harsha Walia, executive director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, said these numbers are “not surprising, but it’s still deeply disturbing.”

Racial inequalities exist in many aspects of Canadian society, including the economy, education, health care and more, Walia said. “It’s also not accurate that somehow the armed institutions of the state … are somehow immune from this either.”

“We have study after study that shows over-criminalization and over-incarceration of Black and Indigenous people is absolutely both a symptom and a cause of systemic racism in other institutions,” Walia said. “It’s not a linear A leads to B, it’s a cyclical process.”

In June, B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth announced the NDP government plans to modernize the province’s Police Act, “with a specific focus on systemic racism.”

Source: Racial disparity in Vancouver drug charges revealed by new data

Why race-based data collection by police could play a role in reform debate

More debates over data but more focus on what data should be collected, the need for community consultation, and how it can and should be used:

As the Black Lives Matter movement spreads across Canada, the conversation around police accountability and reform has grown, including a rising interest in collecting more race-based data on people who interact with officers.

Adora Nwofor has been on the front lines with Black Lives Matter in Calgary. The activist and comedian says that if we do start collecting more race-based data, it’s important to make sure it helps the people it is supposed to help.

“If you want to collect race-based data, I very, very highly suggest that it is the populations that it affects that are getting that information first and then we are allowed to make suggestions as to what should be happening,” she said.

Earlier this year, Ontario became the first province to mandate all its police officers to identify and document the race of an individual on whom they have used force. This data collection initiative comes against the backdrop of large demonstrations against police violence in Canada, and the renewed focus on the policing of Black and Indigenous communities.

“By collecting disaggregated race data, you can provide a baseline for conversation. You can provide a baseline for creating a dialogue between police and the citizenry,” said Lorne Foster, a professor of public policy and human rights at York University in Toronto.

But not everyone thinks the goal of race data collection makes sense.

“I know for a fact that we’re victims, many people can say it, too.” said Samuel, a Black man from Montréal-Nord whose last name CBC has agreed not to publish because he fears harassment. His recent arrest during a traffic stop went viral after being videotaped.

“[The police] are going to try to show us what they want to show us, and not what we’re supposed to see.”

No charges were laid after Samuel’s traffic stop.

Foster was hired in 2013 by the City of Ottawa to design and study a race-based data collection project for police traffic stops. The project involved officers recording the race of the people they pulled over.

The pilot project was borne out of a human rights case involving a Black man who was stopped by police and alleged that he experienced racial profiling.

The data collected by the Ottawa police starting seven years ago showed that drivers who appeared to be Black or Middle Eastern were stopped at disproportionately higher rates.

The report found that in 2017-2018, “Middle Eastern drivers were stopped 3.18 times more than what you would expect based on their segment of the driving population while Black drivers were stopped 2.3 times more than what you would expect based on their population.”

‘This could be duplicated’

After the results were released, the police service created a multi-year action plan on diversity and inclusion in relation to the findings.

The Ottawa pilot is one of the few such initiatives in the country.

“We really do believe this could be duplicated in other municipalities across Canada,” Foster said.

In Ontario, since Jan. 1, 2020, officers have had to formally report the race of an individual in cases where they draw or fire a handgun, use a weapon other than a firearm on someone or are involved in a physical altercation with an individual that causes serious injuries requiring medical attention.

Officers must choose from a list of seven ethnic categories featured on what’s called a use of force report — a document that is filled out by police after such encounters.

The reports are sent to the Ministry of the Solicitor General, which oversees policing in the province, for analysis.

It’s part of Ontario’s Anti-Racism Act, which mandates race data collection “to identify and monitor systemic racism and racial disparities for the purpose of eliminating systemic racism and advancing racial equity.”

As of Jan. 1 of this year, Ontario police officers must choose from a list of seven ethnic categories when filling out a use of force report. (Ministry of the Solicitor General)

But while race-based data has been shown to help bring about reform, advocates are wary of how it will be used and caution against it as a one-stop solution to racial profiling.

“I think that before we continue to push for getting race-based data, we need to make some changes based on the information we already have,” said Nwofor.

“Quite frankly, I don’t need more race-based information next. I need change next. I need application of ideas from people who know that the police are systematically racist.”

It’s a perspective echoed by Myra Tait, an Indigenous lawyer and an instructor on Indigenous justice issues at the University of Winnipeg. Tait has studied how data and research are used in the justice system. While she sees benefits of race data collection and analysis, she said the process must happen in consultation with those the statistics affect.

“We have a very long history in this country of being studied and researched and having data collected on us, only to twist that around to blame the victim in a sense,” she said. “If you want to collect that data, then you do it with us. And you do it for us.”

Apart from Ontario, there are no provincewide mandates to collect race-based policing data. Some police services have taken on pilot projects to collect the data themselves in the past. Ottawa police are collecting the data for traffic stops, while Toronto and Halifax have collected data on street checks or police carding.

​​​​​​CBC News contacted Ontario’s 46 municipal police forces and the Ontario Provincial Police about how they are collecting and using race-based data.

Examining the data

While all of them have to send their reports to the province for analysis, some of them are also examining the data themselves. The extent of community engagement in the process is not clear in every case.

The Toronto Police Service, however, has put in place a race-based data collection strategy in order to prioritize community input, which has included four town halls, 51 focus groups and engagement with more than 800 residents.

“We asked them questions about our strategy: what they wanted to see from it, what did they think needed to be included in the training,” said Suelyn Knight, unit commander of the equity, inclusion and human rights section of the Toronto Police Service.

“It’s important for people to know that that’s also what’s fuelling our strategy, the voices from  [the] community. And we’ll continue to do that. That was not a one-off.”

The Toronto race data collection initiative comes after controversies over racial profiling by the force, especially with regards to street checks, or police carding, of individuals.

In Nova Scotia, street checks were also controversial, and in fact were outlawed after a race-based data pilot project showed Black people were disproportionately targeted by Halifax police.

The analysis of data in that province is another example of race-based statistics leading to change, but it happened only after the public pressured the release of the data in 2017. Halifax police collected the data for years without making it public, and community consultation was missing from the equation.

Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard of Nova Scotia followed the debate over street checks in Halifax closely. While she sees the benefit from making the data public, she said a cautious approach is needed.

“It’s not just about collecting race-based data in policing, it’s really about what happens with that data,” Bernard said.

“Who owns the data? How is the community informed about this information? How is the information used to inform policies, but also to inform practices?”

The use of force reports currently ask the officer to record the race of people according to the officer’s perception. This raises questions about whether the information will be recorded correctly.

“How does an officer decide or distinguish what race the person is?” said Rob Davis, chief of police in Brantford, in southwestern Ontario.

“My fear is there is room for error or generalizing and may lead to false data and a ripple effect of misrepresentations.”

But it is the perception of the officer that’s important, said Foster, who worked on the Ottawa study.

“It’s not self-identified race that matters. It’s the other identified race that matters,” he said. “In other words, it’s the police that are doing the profiling. So it’s the police who interpret an individual’s race and act on that interpretation.”

Analysis coming next year

The Ontario Ministry of the Solicitor General says that currently, the Anti-Racism Act does not give them “the authority to collect self-identified race for use of force reports.” Police officers are “asked to give their best assessment of an individual’s race, honestly and in good faith. To identify and monitor the prevalence of racial bias or discrimination, it is important to capture perception.”

Ontario will analyze the race-based data every year, with the first release coming in 2021.

CBC News asked all other provinces and territories if they are planning to mandate race-based data collection for their police services. None had a plan like Ontario’s.

Alberta, for instance, said that data collection was up to local police services, but the province was planning to modernize its policing laws to make sure police are “accountable to the communities they protect.”

Saskatchewan does not have a provincial requirement for its police services either, but its police oversight body recently started collecting information on race on its complaint forms.

Others said it was up to the province or territory’s own police services or municipalities to collect the data if they wanted to.

Source: Why race-based data collection by police could play a role in reform debate

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