Ottawa police racial-profiling settlement questioned
Lawyer for man behind complaint said scope should go beyond traffic stops
The lawyer who represented an Ottawa man who claimed he was racially profiled at a traffic stop in 2005 says a settlement between the Ontario Human Rights Commission and the Ottawa Police Services Board does not go far enough.
On Friday, Ottawa police announced as part of the settlement they have agreed to collect race-based data on traffic stops for at least two years, to start within a year.
The change in policy comes after a complaint from Chad Aiken, who was 18 at the time. Aiken alleged he was pulled over while driving his mother's Mercedes, then taunted and punched in the chest by an Ottawa police officer.
Aiken also said the officer was driving in the opposite direction before making a U-turn and pulling him over.
A partial settlement was reached in the summer of 2010.
Lawyer Donald McLeod, who represented Aiken on behalf of the African Canadian Legal Clinic, said the settlement is disappointing because it tracks only traffic stops, and not pedestrian stops, and so provides an incomplete picture of whether racial profiling is happening.
For example, McLeod said an incident like the 2008 arrest and detention of Stacy Bonds — who would later sue police for her treatment in the Ottawa cell block — would not be counted in the police data because she was stopped while walking in downtown Ottawa.
"For them to suggest that this sort of incremental progress should be seen as good enough is not good enough and as a community we are disappointed," said McLeod.
In 2005, Kingston police completed a study showing officers were more likely to stop black people over other races. The police union sought a second opinion on the study.
The chairman of Toronto's police services board voiced his support for the collection of similar data in March.
Girlfriend recorded audio of interaction with police
The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal agreed to hear Aiken's case because he had an audio recording of his conversation with the officer that his girlfriend recorded using her cellphone during the incident.
In 2010, the court heard the cellphone recording where Aiken was heard asking for the officer's badge number. The officer responded "666" — the number associated with the devil.
The officer was never identified after an Ottawa police internal investigation and no charges were ever laid.