Ottawa

Justice for Abdirahman group wants Ottawa police to own up to racial profiling

Ottawa police should own up to racial profiling in its ranks after the release of a report that shows Middle Eastern and black drivers, particularly young men, are stopped far more often than other drivers.

'How will you be able to offer a solution when you're not able to admit that there's an issue here?'

Dahabo Ahmed Omer, co-chair of the Justice for Abdirahman Coalition, says Ottawa police should own up to instances of racial profiling in its ranks. (CBC)

Ottawa police should own up to racial profiling in its ranks after the release of a report that shows Middle Eastern and black drivers, particularly young men, are stopped far more often than other drivers.

The authors of the report released Monday say that while the data is consistent with racial profiling, the study cannot prove it's taking place because the parameters of the study didn't include determining cause.

But Dahabo Ahmed Omer, a co-chair of the Justice for Abdirahman Coalition, says the results speak for themselves and that the force should own up to racial profiling.

"What I was expecting from [Ottawa police Chief Charles Bordeleau] was to name the issue. I think the fact that he was roaming around the fact that this was not racial profiling was the biggest issue to me. The minute a language is formed around an issue, then you can tackle it," she told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning on Tuesday.

"How will you be able to offer a solution when you're not able to admit that there's an issue here?"

Lesley Jacobs, one of the York University researchers behind the study, said Tuesday that the purpose of the report wasn't to establish causality, but that bias is implied in the findings.

"Certainly there are clear implications of bias in the findings, and I think it's reasonable to say that yesterday, the chief of police more or less accepted that there was at least implicit bias in the findings," Jacobs said.

'Disparity between people that are not being charged'

Omer found it particularly interesting that in cases where police conducted a traffic stop with no charges or tickets or warnings issued, people of colour were far more likely to be involved.

"There's a ... disparity between people that are not being charged, so you have all these people that are being pulled over and there's no action being taken. So it begs the question, why are they being pulled over?," she said.

"What type of training are they getting? How do they know how to pull someone over? What kind of judgement are they using? Is it personal judgement, or as per their training as police officers?"

Asked about Bordeleau's Monday comments that a reason for the disparity could be that police are asked to pay more attention to high-crime areas, which tend to be more ethnically diverse, Omer said the study doesn't bear that out.

"I truly believe that these communities that are mostly populated by minorities are being targeted," she said.

"The higher police presence that you have in a certain area, the more traffic stops there are going to be. But why do you pick those areas? He alluded to the fact that it was the community that wanted the police there, but ... how do they justify that? ... Some of the data that the researchers have presented do not justify those comments at all."

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