Police chief promising action plan on discrimination

Ottawa police Chief Peter Sloly says an action plan to tackle racial discrimination among officers on the force is coming in January.

Peter Sloly's announcement comes as data shows Middle Eastern, black drivers still pulled over at higher rate

Ottawa police Chief Peter Sloly says he's frustrated with the latest traffic stop data showing black and Middle Eastern drivers, especially young males, are being pulled over in disproportionately high numbers. (Stu Mills/CBC)

Ottawa police Chief Peter Sloly says an action plan to tackle racial discrimination among officers on the force is coming in January.

The announcement follows on the heels of race data showing black and Middle Eastern drivers are still being pulled over at disproportionately high rates. 

"People should not feel satisfied in any way about where we are, but they should feel confident that we have moved forward and that we will move forward even more significantly in the near term and over the long term," Sloly said during a briefing at city hall Wednesday.  

According to the data released Tuesday, in 2017 and 2018, Middle Eastern drivers were stopped 3.18 times more than should have been expected based on the proportion of Middle Eastern drivers in Ottawa, while black drivers were stopped 2.3 times more.

The results show little change from previous data gathered from 2013 to 2015.

Young men especially targeted

According to the most recent report, compiled by researchers from York University and Ontario Tech University, Middle Eastern and black males ages 16-24 were especially targeted by police.  

A separate diversity audit by human resources research company Graybridge Malkam found Ottawa's police service isn't reflecting the diversity of the city's population, nor is there a "strong" understanding among officers of how equity and diversity affects their day-to-day actions.

Sloly said the action plan will focus on improving equity, diversity and inclusiveness, and will include recommendations contained in both reports released Wednesday.

"There is a fierce urgency of 'now' that I bring to this as a 53-year-old man of colour," Sloly said. "I want to know that my wife, son or daughter or myself won't experience bias, discriminatory or racist conduct by a member of the OPS."

'We need to push'

Sloly stressed it's not just frontline officers he's concerned about, and called for improvements to training and hiring practices among the force's upper echelons as well.

"We need to push," he said. "We need to be pushed internally, and we must be pushed by our community to advance this thing forward." 

John Adeyefa, president of the African Canadian Association of Ottawa, agreed. 

"We are still concerned that our community is still being profiled," he said Wednesday. "I want to make sure our members, including our youth, don't have to feel afraid of driving on the Ottawa streets when the police stop us."