Hot! Toronto police ‘whitewash’ crime statistics by hiding race, study says

TheStar.com – opinion/editorials
Published On Sun Feb 05 2012.    Editorial

After years of controversy and much gnashing of teeth, the Toronto Police Service got the go-ahead to collect race-based criminal justice statistics in 2010. But they’re still not releasing them publicly to help people determine whether there is a racial bias in policing.

Determining whether blacks, for example, were stopped more often or treated more harshly for the same crimes than whites was the key argument for collecting the race-based data in the first place.

Police policy is to make the data public only “when deemed necessary.” And though there have been requests for the statistics, a police spokesperson says, “to date, they have never been released.” The concern is that the data could be twisted and read any which way.

But a report last week by two Ontario criminologists calls that logic into question, yet again. They argue that what police forces across this country are really doing by withholding data is “whitewashing criminal justice.”

Nearly 60 per cent of police forces suppress data about the race of people they come into contact with, according to the report. Keeping the data secret does nothing to reduce the stigma suffered by young black males but it does make “quantitative anti-racism research impossible.” That’s not good for anyone.

We know that blacks are over-represented in our prisons, and we routinely hear of individual cases of racial profiling. In two investigative series, in 2002 and 2010, the Star found that blacks were treated more harshly and stopped more often than whites.

We also know that attitudes are changing for the better, that police forces conduct diversity training and actively work to recruit non-white officers. But without statistical data, there’s no way to tell if any of this is having the desired effect where it matters most — on the street.

Police forces across Canada must collect appropriate and consistent race-based criminal justice data — and publicly disseminate it.

As one of the report’s authors, Paul Millar, put it: “No data, no understanding of the problems, no solutions.”

< http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorials/article/1126188–toronto-police-whitewash-crime-statistics-by-hiding-race-study-says >

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