Black Lives Matter calls for new police carding researchers

Two researchers examining Edmonton’s controversial carding practices won’t be fair and objective, says groups watching the review.

'It’s something we truly believed in,' advocate says of police review

Edmonton police commission is standing firm that the researcher reviewing Edmonton's carding practices will yield unbiased results. (Trevor Wilson CBC News)

Two researchers examining Edmonton's controversial police carding practices won't be fair and objective, according to two advocacy groups watching the review.

The Edmonton Police Commission chose Curt Griffiths, a professor of criminology at Simon Fraser University, to lead a review after a CBC News investigation revealed police were checking black and Indigenous people on the street more often than white people.

The commission announced in July it was appointing an independent third party to look into the practice of street checks.

"It's something we truly believed in," said Bashir Mohamed with Black Lives Matter.

Mohamed believes Griffiths is in a conflict of interest because of work he did for the Canadian Police Association in the past.

The CPA, he pointed out, lobbies on behalf of police around the country, including in Edmonton.

"Based on the fact that this was supposed to be, as they say, an unbiased and impartial third-party review," Mohamed said Wednesday. "I'm concerned as to why this wasn't raised as a red flag and how exactly they were chosen."

Bashir Mohamed with Black Lives Matter is concerned the researchers chosen to review Edmonton's street check practices are biased in favour of police. (Nicholas Yee)

The Edmonton Police Commission sent a statement Wednesday to CBC News, saying Griffiths's experience with police-related research makes him well suited to review Edmonton police tactics.

"The Commission has full confidence in the integrity of Dr. Griffiths and his team and their ability to carry out an independent and unbiased review of street check practice," said Tim O'Brien, acting chair of the Edmonton Police Commission, in a statement.

O'Brien went on to say that the commission recognizes "independent consultants in general may have contracts" with a number of different groups.

Mohamed is also taking issue with a PhD student in criminology at SFU, Josh Murphy, who's helping Griffiths with the review.

(Bashir Mohamed)

Mohamed found two posts he said were on Murphy's Twitter account in 2014, which bring the researcher's impartiality into question.

One, he said, draws a comparison between being black and being a police officer in the U.S.

"They [police] have the power of the law behind them while a young black man in the States does not," he argued.

"It's just a ridiculous comparison and it shows an extreme lack of understanding as to why these issues exist."

Another tweet seems to impart a defensive tone about being white.

(Bashir Mohamed)

"For him to tweet that just showed a lack of understanding and frankly it seemed immature for somebody who considers himself to be an academic."

Murphy's Twitter account is locked so only confirmed followers have access to his tweets. 

Neither Griffiths nor Murphy have responded to requests for interviews.

Mohamed is still calling on the commission to reset the review.

"I think this is a really important moment where they could have had somebody who hasn't had these previous connections, somebody local to do this review," Mohamed said.

"We hope the police commission takes action and selects researchers who are truly impartial and independent, that's our main goal."

The Stolen Sisters and Brothers Awareness Movement supports Mohamed's views on the researchers' inability to be impartial.

"I'm sure there's plenty of qualified researchers across Alberta, across Canada, who don't have those connections who could do the review," Mohamed said.

The street check review is funded by the Edmonton Police Commission. The results are expected in March.