Windsor

DNA canvassing of migrant workers not racial profiling, report says

Gerry McNeilly, the head of the province's Independent Police Review, called the officers' conduct "professional."

Police requested DNA samples from almost every local migrant worker of colour during investigation

Ontario's Independent Police Review Director, Gerry McNeilly, seen here in 2012, said officers were not racially profiling when they asked a number of migrant workers of colour to provide DNA samples following an alleged sexual assault. (Canadian Press)

A police watchdog has found that Ontario Provincial Police officers were not racially profiling when they asked a number of migrant workers of colour to provide DNA samples following an alleged sexual assault.

Gerry McNeilly, the head of the province's Independent Police Review Director who looked into the incident, released his report at a news conference this morning, in which he called the officers' conduct "professional," evoking several cries of "shame" from the crowd.

The incident took place in 2013, when a woman reported to police that she had been sexually assaulted by a black migrant worker and provided his physical description.

McNeilly's report — titled Casting The Net — says that during the investigation, police requested DNA samples from virtually every local migrant worker of colour regardless of their physical characteristics.

The perpetrator was ultimately apprehended after he refused to provide police with a DNA sample. He later pleaded guilty and was sentenced to seven years in prison.

McNeilly has made number of recommendations, including that the OPP must develop a policy to govern how and when DNA sweeps are conducted, and that DNA samples of people cleared of a crime should be destroyed.

But Chris Ramshroop of Justice for Migrant Workers criticized the report.

"We are extremely angered by the result," he said. "We believe they failed as an institution to provide any real understanding of what happened."

Ramshroop says the findings send the wrong message to Ontario residents and police.

"This report and the OIPRD are giving police across Ontario carte blanche to infringe, to violate and intimidate migrant workers," he said.