Police association blasts move to collect race data 0
Ottawa Police Service. (QMI Agency File Photo)
The union representing city police officers calls the collection of racial data "a huge step back" and is frustrated ethnicity will be thrust into the spotlight unnecessarily.
Ottawa Police Association president Matt Skof fears gathering racial data at traffic stops will erode community relationships, create hostility and breed mistrust, which will result in more difficult and dangerous confrontations with police.
"It's about behaviour, it's about criminality, it has nothing to do with race. It's making (race) relevant and that's all people are going to see," Skof said Monday. "It's a no-win situation for our guys because it second-guesses our actions."
A settlement between the Ottawa Police Service and the Ontario Human Rights Commission announced last week means officers must start to collect race-based data on traffic stops within the year. It follows a 2005 human rights complaint from Ottawa's Chad Aiken, then 18, who accused cops of pulling him over because of the colour of his skin.
Skof said the data is useless anyway, and misleading statistics may encourage frivolous lawsuits from the public.
It may also subconsciously cause officers to second-guess stopping someone at a traffic stop.
"It's just so fraught with failure. At the end of the day, if we had a problem with the community, we respond to it. It's going to require us to defend something that we shouldn't have to explain," Skof said. "The perception is they've been doing something wrong. It's going to serve no purpose except to create animosity."
Officers will record the race of the person they pull over rather than asking the person. The data won't be used in any disciplinary or performance evaluation.
After two years of collection, the Ontario Human Rights Commission will analyze the data and possibly issue recommendations based on the findings.