We are Not Alone
Police Racial Profiling in Canada, the United States and the United KingdomCommissioned by the African Canadian Community Coalition on Racial ProfilingWe Are Not Alone is an Executive Summary of Conflict, Crisis and Accountability and In Their Own
Voices. Interviewees are quoted throughout the document.
- Definition of Racial Profiling
- Historical and Social Context of Racial profiling
- Impact of Profiling
- Rooted in History: Racial Profiling in the U.S
- Institutional Racism: Racial Profiling in the U.K.
- `Studied to Death’: Racial Profiling in Canada
- Methods of Racial Profiling
- Frequency of Racial Profiling
- `Benefits’ of Racial Profiling
- Organizational Change
- COMMUNITY-BASED POLICING
- COMPLAINTS MECHANISMS
- SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT
- PUBLIC COMPLAINTS PROCESSES
- Education and Training
- Organizational Change
- OFFICER PERFORMANCE
- COMMUNITY-BASED POLICING
- CIVILIAN OVERSIGHT AND COMPLAINTS MECHANISMS
- Data Collection
“In the fall of 2002, the Toronto Star released a series of articles reporting on the results of substantive research indicating that in stops, searches, arrests and detentions from 1996 - 2002 the Toronto Police Services treated peoples of African descent differently than Whites and other racialized groups. In examining Police data from shortly after the release of the report of the Ontario Commission on Systemic Racism into the Criminal Justice System, the authors of the Star series concluded that Toronto police disproportionately single out individuals of African descent and that this may constitute discriminatory treatment.
Like other media reports on racial profiling in North America, the Star series unleashed a highly charged debate. While there were those who retorted that these articles merely confirmed what had been known for years, there were also those who vilified the Star series and denied its veracity. In fact, during an interview with the Star reporters to discuss
the articles’ findings, the Chief of Police dismissed the results entirely and abruptly cut short the interview.
What followed was a series of activities within government, policing circles (and) the courts… to address this complex and contentious issue.”Crisis, Conflict and Accountability, Charles C. Smith
The heightened public awareness brought on by the Toronto Star articles had two other—perhaps unintended—results. First, a cross-section of African Canadian leaders began to speak out about racial profiling and to demand action. Racial profiling was no longer a matter associated with `community activists’. The Canadian Race Relations Foundation, for example, hosted a summit under the leadership of the Hon. Lincoln Alexander. Leaders from various levels of government and public office attended, as did representatives from the police. At the summit Toronto’s Chief of Police acknowledged that police do occasionally engage in racial profiling and among the resolutions passed at the conference was a commitment by those present to deal with profiling at a systemic level.
If the summit offered an opportunity for `the system’ to wrestle with police racial profiling, the second fallout from the Star controversy-- community discussions, meetings and alliances—provided an opportunity for African Canadians to reflect on their role in addressing the issue. Community meetings gave birth to an ad hoc coalition of organizations
and individuals named the African Canadian Community Coalition against Racial Profiling (ACCCRP). The coalition subsequently launched a coordinated, strategic effort to address police racial profiling, commissioning two reports that were funded by the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, as a first phase.
The Coalition rejected the idea of an Inquiry into racial profiling, arguing that over the past 30 years enough had been written to document the existence of profiling and that recommendations to address the causes and impact had not been adequately implemented. In his report, Crisis, Conflict and Accountability, Charles C. Smith recounts these findings and recommendations. He further presents police racial profiling as a phenomenon that goes far beyond the GTA, based on research into initiatives that are underway in the U.K., other parts of Canada and in the United States. Smith’s study also highlights best practices that are starting to emerge out of these jurisdictions.
Written by former journalist Maureen Brown, the second report to the Coalition, In their Own Voices: African Canadians in the Greater Toronto Area Share Experiences of Police Profiling, presents a `profile of profiling’ through the voices of African Canadians. Interviewees describe what police racial profiling looks like from their
experience, as well as when, how and where it takes place. They also offer ideas for strengthening relations between African Canadians and the police. The report complements Smith’s report, as well as that of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, Paying the Price: The Human Cost of Racial Profiling, which focuses on the impact of racial
profiling in different sectors including policing.
History and Context of Police Racial Profiling in Canada, the U.K. and the U.S.
Charles C. Smith cites experts and lawmakers’ definitions of racial profiling, perhaps best expressed by Elizabeth
Knight and William Kurnik, who describe profiling as “a set of circumstances, events, or behaviour that, when combined with the experience of an officer, may cause heightened suspicion that affects the officer’s exercise of discretion in stop and/or arrest decisions.” and that “…the term ‘racial profiling‘ appears to broadly connote discriminatory law enforcement practices.”
In Their Own Voices also cites other definitions of racial profiling. Among them:
HISTORICAL AND SOCIAL CONTEXT OF RACIAL PROFILINGIn Crisis, Conflict and Accountability, Charles C. Smith argues that to properly understand racial profiling, one needs to look at the history of Blacks in western societies and at the role that policing plays in society on a whole. He
quotes Erez et al:
“The police in all societies are charged with maintaining public order and protecting public safety, and that generally means conserving the status quo in whatever form it may take. The police are inherently conservative in both their actions and their predispositions. They represent the vested economic and political interests and values of the societies in which they perform their policing duties. Where countries are changing and adding cultural and ethnic multiplicity, the police are most likely to be aligned with the old cultural and ethnic guard, or they may be perceived as such by new, or newly empowered, constituents.”
quotes Erez et al:
Section 1 of the Smith report examines police racial profiling against the backdrop of Blacks in western society. Smith
draws the following conclusions:
- The modern world has been shaped through European breakthroughs in ocean transportation, agriculture, industrialization and concepts of statehood. (Cornell West)
- European-inspired concepts of Blacks--often encoded in legal systems--have evolved from viewing them as civilized peoples; to `racialized others’; to subordinate, savage and inferior. (Audrey Smedley)
- Race is a socially-based concept: “Race comes into existence as an act of definition by whites who assume the power to dominate…(I)t functions as a system of social categorization that the power to dominate then constructs.”(Stephen Martinot)
- Racial profiling is part of a continuum of White supremacy, perpetuated through “icons of philosophical thought” by way of the values, beliefs and political/cultural/social structures that influence society’s views of Blacks (Prof. Charles Mills)
- Police forces play a role in maintaining society’s racial divide by means such as over-surveillance, which leads to higher rates of arrest and incarceration
Smith concludes that one means of preserving the racial status quo is through racial profiling: