MONTREAL (CITYNEWS) – Community organizations are calling on Montreal police to collect race-based data on every police stop – including ones related to social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
This comes after the city’s police force committed to enacting a formal policy to end discriminatory stops by March 2020.
It’s now May and community groups say they’re still waiting.
“At the end of the day, a police officer stops someone based on their perception,” said Tiffany Callender of the Cote-Des-Neiges Black Community Association. “Perception is unique, it’s yours. Perceptions are guided by beliefs and those are yours. So what you need is a system to standardize and document the actions of individuals.
“This is a very old, stale discussion. This should be embarrassing by now for our city.”
Last fall, an independent study commissioned by the SPVM revealed that visible minorities are stopped far more frequently than white people.
The study found that Indigenous people are 4.6 times more likely to be stopped for a street check than a white person. A black person is 4.2 times more likely to be stopped while Arab Montrealers are twice as likely.
The study called this “systemic bias” but falls short of using the term “racial profiling.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been reports of predominantly black and brown neighbourhoods being disproportionately targeted during social-distancing police stops – but there isn’t concrete data to prove the allegation.
Community groups say collecting data is key to revealing more.
“The more you know, the better you can deal with a situation,” said Sharon Nelson of the Jamaica Association of Montreal. “If you don’t know, you’re drawing straws. So yes, the information is a part of the clout and yes, the information is important because it will contextualize what is happening here. Information will always do that.”
Toronto and Ottawa police forces collect race-based data, and these groups want to see the same model in Montreal.
“Putting in place a collection of race-based data in terms of police stops would allow for not only the SPVM but also the city of Montreal to look at what is the circumstances,” said Callender.
Montreal police did not respond to request for comment.