Headlines·Point of View

Chief: Racial profiling is prohibited, but 'criminal profiling' is not

Hamilton Police Chief Glenn De Caire, responds to the head of the Ontario Human Rights Commission calling the service's approach to street checks a 'textbook description of racial profiling.'

Chief: 'I do not, and will not ever, tolerate or condone racial profiling'

Hamilton Police Chief Glenn De Caire responds to an Ontario Human Rights Commission letter calling the service's approach to carding 'textbook' racial profiling. (John Rieti/CBC)

Glenn De Caire is chief of Hamilton Police Service. He submitted the below commentary in response to a letter from the Ontario Human Rights Commission that called his articulation of the service's approach to street checks and carding in a letter to the public safety minister 'textbook description of racial profiling.'

The Interim Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, Ruth Goba, recently authored a response on behalf of the Commission to the Hamilton Police Service (HPS) submission of September 21, 2015 to the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services regarding street checks.

To be clear, the Hamilton Police Service does not participate in the random and indiscriminate stopping of our citizens for the purpose of identification. Further, our officers are trained to use their policing authorities in a manner that respects the human rights of all individuals. We are fully committed to work with the MCSCS, and Minister Naqvi, in the development of street check regulations and we will follow any direction provided by the Ministry. In this, there is no doubt. 

Having spent considerable time reviewing the Ontario Human Rights Commission submission to the Ministry, the Service supports the Commission's position on the importance of officer discretion as a fundamental requirement of a police officer's duty to enforce the law.

Main Street East gunfight example

Hamilton police released an image of the shootout that took place in May in central Hamilton in hopes of tracking down suspects. (Hamilton police)
The submission to Minister Naqvi provided an example related to a daylight shooting that occurred in May, 2015. 

Specifically, the HPS submission stated: 

"On May 17, 2015 we know, from clear and independent video evidence, that at least two young black men stood in the middle of Main Street and East Street, Hamilton and opened fire on each other.  It was a sunny Sunday afternoon and fortunately nobody got hurt. The community called for immediate police support to the area to help curb this troublesome violence.  What does the community expect of the police in such a situation?  When we send officers to this area in response to the shooting, we are going to be stopping, talking and investigating young black males.  We are going to be stopping and talking to as many people as possible because we do not know who might be a suspect, person of interest, victim, witness or a person who may wish to be a confidential informant. We don't know until we gather the information.  We are going to be adding this information to our intelligence systems for analysis so we can identify relationships, links in information and our goal is the [sic] find the persons responsible for opening fire in our community in broad daylight and we clearly heard from the community that gun fire, anywhere and at any time, is not acceptable."

The Commissioner, in her Op Ed, does not reference the entire paragraph. This omission can leave the reader with a less than full understanding of the situation and denies the reader the critical context of our Service's position. The Commissioner posits that "this is a textbook description of racial profiling. It is not discretion in action — it is a racially-motivated roundup".

We reject this premise and we do so because, as it relates to this specific incident, the Commissioner ignores the issue of criminal profiling.  We are responding to a daylight shooting incident in which the evidence clearly indicated that two young black males fired guns at each other.  Of course, when we attend the scene, our first priority is public safety – we are looking to locate the suspects who fired the guns. In this case, information was provided on the limited description of the suspects.  Our actions are guided by that information. The Commissioner's position is that it is not appropriate to speak to young black males just because they are black. 

We wholeheartedly agree. However, in the context of this specific incident, speaking to young black males, and everyone else at the scene, in an attempt to find out who in our community would so brazenly endanger the public, cannot, under any definition, be considered racial profiling. The Commissioner cites the Maynard case in support of her position. However, this is a case with facts that are very different than the Hamilton shooting incident of May 17, 2015. 

Racial profiling is prohibited; 'criminal profiling' is not

After reading the Op Ed, I spoke to Commissioner Goba to express my concerns that her account of our position did not accurately reflect our submission to the Minister and, as such, may have left the impression in the community that this Service tolerates or condones racial profiling. 

I do not, and will not ever, tolerate or condone racial profiling.  I fully support our officers investigating crime, following the evidence, and discharging the duties of their Oath of Office "faithfully, impartially and according to law".     

Let's again be clear, racial profiling is prohibited in policing. Criminal profiling is not. 

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