Racial Profiling In Canada Criminology Essay


The public and the police encounters are challenged and stressful events. As a multicultural nation, Canada protects its core values such as the freedom from discrimination and arbitrary. However, activities like the investigation by the law-enforcement officials may make people vulnerable leading to allegation of racial profiling (Sean & Kevin, 2006). Yet, the community widely recognizes the intelligence-law as a desirable matter of practice. With this regards, the police are encouraged to use criminal intelligence to eliminate the egalitarian ideals making the citizenry proud (Sean & Kevin, 2006). A few years ago, the weight and height criterion on police officers recruitment and the training requirements were guided by physical strength and physiques, and their effectiveness at work rather than the color of the skin. Nonetheless, there are people who think that the skin color, non-legally relevant behavior, clothing can make them subject to unwanted treatments and if it comes from the police it may qualify to be an infringement. The sense of the infringement in itself can escalate a response. Of course, some policies may lead to racial discrimination without any intention of racism. After careful consideration of Toronto Star investigative journalism report and a few other studies one should conclude that the Canadian Police Force have allegedly engaged in “Racial Profiling”, thereby demonstrating the negative effect on the public perception of police legitimacy.

The Problem

Canadian policing in terms of its affect on the public’s perception of police legitimacy is a debate whose heart lies on the role of the police. The Canadian Police Force also bears the largest part to the responsibility of racial profiling (Melchers, 2006). In some instances, the police contacts with the public leave the sensitive members of the public bewildered. The quality of the police- public interaction has been intensified by the ‘anti-racial profiling’ accusations. There are no new facts in the neologism ‘racial profiling’ since there is a long history of biased policing in the findings and reported accusations. Racial profiling has garnered the attention of the media and public and thus the expression that the old wine is pouring into new bottles reinvigorating the problem.

The Toronto Star articles “Race and Crime”

The Toronto Star on October 19 2009 started publishing “Race and Crime” as series of articles that revolved around the theme of racial profiling. “Justice is different for blacks and whites”, “Police target black drivers”, and “Blacks are targeted by Toronto police are treated harshly than whites” are some of the singled out 2002 articles (Melchers, 2003). These subsequent stories claimed that the Toronto police were connected with “racial profiling”. The Star defined these acts of stopping people as “the practice of stopping people for little reason other than their skin colour.” The publication of the interviews with the black community leaders and advocates confirmed the presumption concerning reported charges of racial profiling and articulation of Scott Wortley, a Toronto criminologist (Melchers, 2006). The police representative responded to these acquisitions rejecting that they were singling out the black community. Alan Gold, a prominent lawyer and Edward Harvey a University of Toronto sociologists were commissioned to conduct the Star independent review analysis by the Toronto Police Service. After their investigation the commission made a conclusion that what the Star analysis was “Junk science” and that the articles were “completely unjustified, irresponsible and bogus slurs’ (Melchers, 2006). Additionally, the police union on behalf of its 7,200 members filed a $2.7 billion libel suit. To refute or support these claims judges, police officials, and attoneys further weighed to establish concrate contoversial statements. The Star’s reported on police racial profiling after analyizing the Toronto Police’s Criminal Information Processing System (CIPS) arrest data accessed by the Star’s invetigative journalist team. The team was supervised by Dr. Michael Friendly, a director of York University Institute consulting service. The database that was analyzed constisted of more than 400,000 incidents involving arrests or tickets (Melchers, 2006). The identification information was not included to protect the identity of individuals. Information identifying the incidence of arrest, charged or ticketed in broad category included other attributes such as gender, age, skin colour, the resideny status, and immigation. The data also included limited information housed in the CPIC such as the criminal histories of individuals, conditional release status, previous convictions, probation orders, and bail status (Melchers, 2003). Some of the police-recorded data in various instance was either missing or overrepesented. For instance, the least serious offenses were underreported and the more serious offences and known offenders were over-represented. Notice the CPIC only records information on police actions and incidences included information on arrest, ticket or charged persons. The main purpose of CIPS is to provide relevant information in the subsequent stages of the process of criminal justice. With this regards, no subsequent action can be taken on the recorded information if incomplete, the Star investigative journalist team faced this predicament in the course of their investigation.

The Evaluation

Over the past few years, the Toronto Star investigative report on Canadian police on racial profiling has attracted considerable attention. Canadian newspaper report on police racial profiling is practice that been highly politicized since the 70’s (Melchers, 2003). For instance an earlier report conducted by the Royal Commission in 1992 on Donald Marshal indicated that nearly two-thirds of the total respondents felt that the police were discriminating the Canadian-African community. In reference to the interview with the Black Caribbean-Canadians who lived in Toronto City, Henry (1994) articulates that the police-public relations are filed with racial mistrust and suspicion practices (14). James (1998) also concludes in his examination that the encounters that the Black youth have with the police are characterized by harassment, suspicion, homogenization, and stereotyping which are indicative to police attitudes toward the Black youth (134). In other study conducted by Tanner and Wortley (2002), the research approximated that more than 3,400 Black students in Toronto’s high schools attested having been stopped and questioned by police twice or more in a span of one year (369). They also claimed that they were subjected to physical searches.

For the sake of this illustration, a keen interest must be developed on the articles that the Toronto Star initiated under the series “race and crime” with the claim that the Police Force of Toronto were engaging in racial profiling. The claims asserted the Black Torontonians were detained and treated worse than their White counterparts (Melchers, 2003). The citizens and the community leaders took the Star’s report as a justification stating that racial profiling is an endemic in the crime and judicial system. The Star article series analyzed two independent data sets for two explicit reasons. First, there are the “out-of-sight” driving offenses where the driver is stopped without apparent reasons used in the assessment of the various patterns of traffic stops. Second, data sets pertaining to simple drug offenses were used in the assessment of the disparity of treatment of both Black and White drivers. In regard to the analysis of out-of-sight, the Star reported that from 19996 through to 2001, 4,696 out-of-sight offenses with noted skin colour were recorded identifying 33.6% of these as Black (Melchers, 2006). In comparison to the 1996 Canadian census, only 8.1% of Toronto’s total population was identified as Black therefore the Star reached to a conclusion that racial profiling existed. On the drug offenses, the Star investigative team examined more than 10,000 police depositions of the charged persons. For those involved, 23.6% were Black drivers and 63.8% involved the White counterparts, whereas the 76.5% of the latter were later released at the scene compared to the former’s 61.8%. During the same period, 15.3% of the Black drivers were held for bail hearing as compared to the 7.3% of the White drivers (Melchers, 2006). The evidence was clear that the police treat Black Canadian worse than their White counterparts.

Racial Profiling in Canadian courts

The ambiguity of the phrase “racial profiling” has found itself favoured in the Canadian Courts. The jurisprudential term “articulable cause” in Canada equates to lack of “reasonable grounds” in the U.S., which is regarded as de jure evidence concerning “racial profiling” even when specific evidence on racial biasness is missing. Such an asymmetry has emerged as a consequence that has affected how the legal rights in regards to the ways the police powers are treated when applying the power of search, investigative detention, and seizure. This form of asymmetry makes the enforcement of law and public safety more difficult when it comes to the members of visible minority threatening to endanger their security, in the midst empowering criminal organizations (Melchers, 2006). There is a growing reception in the courts, the public, and the media on racial profiling allegations whose basis might be evidentiary weak or not completely fabricated. The two most cited sources of claims in Canadian experience are the Toronto Star investigative journalism report on race and crime conducted in year 2002 and the recently conducted data collection by Scot Wortley commissioned by Kingston Police Service. The two experiences are still undergoing peer reviews though they continue to circulate as “grey” literature. Today the two studies suffer from acute methodological problems and the research community have a consensuses view that the two are ‘junk science’.

Subsequently, if any police work lack sufficient grounds or ‘articulable cause’ then these cases are submitted as “racial profiling’ when the subject of these actions is from a visible minority community. When the subject stopped by the police present physical and visible characteristics that may evoke stereotyping and the findings of the court report that the police were deficient and unlawfully detained the subject then the court can submit statements supporting the presence of racial profiling. The ant-profiling advocates have made suggestions that all police stops of the visible minority population including those at the street stops of pedestrians be taken as presumptively forms of detention of a higher standards. Many have argued that such a differential standard is crucial because it recognizes how the visible minority perceive things differently from others specifically when they relate with the police. Under looking the developments are advocates whose intentions are to drive an intermediary between the law enforcement authorities and the visible minorities which perhaps unknowingly can further the notion that the police are antagonistic and unsympathetic to the visible minorities.

Fighting Racial Profiling

In the law enforcement, the issue of ‘racial profiling’ has purported systemic and widespread biasness. This issue in the public debate has a staying power which requires immediate response from the investigative authorities, the police, and other parties in the criminal justice system (Melchers, 2006). The culture of racial profiling can be dangerous to the public safety and the social cohesion. Furthermore, it has became clear that the conventional accountability mechanisms such as clear polices working in opposition to discrimination and biasness are no longer seen as sufficient as they used to be. Perhaps Star’s article series were the eye opener depicting the intractable problems that still permeates the Canadian criminal and Judiciary system. Yet, the racial profiling in other countries such as the U.S. has added much heat and no enlightenment to the debate. Some of the effective tools that can control and suppress the perception of racial profiling policing are the establishing task forces that involve the community leaders, disciplinary policies, public statements, training, and written policies that work against racial profiling. These mitigation techniques are rather debatable than costly compared to the difficult flawed collection of evidence that can sometime contradict or even support positive-negative views.


In today’s conformist age, it is very tempting for the progressives to be content with victories such as the official knowledge of Canadian racial profiling. Nonetheless, the realization that the government agencies such as the police force are operating in non-transgressive universe of meaning whose value on acknowledgement concerning issues of social justice are characterized by omissions, distortions and qualifications can lower these temptations (Melchers, 2006). The Star’s series articles presented police racial profiling as ubiquitous and dysfunctional producing a report that was more cautious than crucial and more befuddling than enlightening and hence the title of these articles.

Significantly, this paper has addressed the specific topic about Canadian policing in terms of its affect on the public’s perception and the police legitimacy concerning racial profiling. The paper also presented general arguments about Canada, the presently constituted policies in courts, and the lack of guarantees to substantive anti-racism. It now goes without saying that appeasing measures such as training, establishing task forces that involve the community leaders, disciplinary policies, and public statements can help fight the problem of racial profiling. If these methods are followed, Canada can mollify the effect of racial profiling, lower political costs, and fuel the progressive transformation of major institutions such as the police force. From the point of view Star’s investigative journalism report and other studies on race and racism, it is clear that the best racial policy is the one that provide appearance of change without a changing of the status quo.

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