Peel Region Police and Racial Bias
Racial profiling is a phenomenon that has been understood mainly through the harassment of black people by the police. According to the definition by the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC), racial profiling is any action undertaken for reasons of safety, security or public protection that relies on stereotypes about race, color, ethnicity, ancestry, religion or place of origin rather than on reasonable suspicion, to single out an individual for greater scrutiny or different treatment.
Its practice is not limited to any one group of people or particular institution. Therefore it is unlawful for one to be harassed, insulted or treated unfairly for any of these reasons. A land mark decision was made by Ontario human rights commission tribunal when it ruled that Jacqueline Nassiah was a victim of racial profiling. The commission found that during investigation Jacqueline Nassiah was harassed by an officer from Peel Region Police who was investigating the shop lifting incident. The tribunal heard that the officer verbally harassed her by calling her a “fucking foreigner”. According to Ontario Human Rights Commission (2007) the police officer assumed without properly looking at all the evidence, including a videotape of the alleged theft which exonerated her that the white guard at the store was telling the truth while the suspect was not.
The whole idea started on Feb. 18, 2003 when Jacqueline Nassiah was stopped by a security guard while shopping for bra at a Sears store in Mississauga and accused her of stealing a bra costing less than $10. The commission established that police officer assumed Ms Nassiah didn’t understand English. She was then searched for the item in the bathroom by the staff of Sears store. Even after a second body search proved that the woman was innocent, the police officer continued investigating the black woman for up to two and half hours.According to Philip Lee-Shanok (2007) the tribunal found out that officer also subjected Ms Nassiah to verbal abuse and threatened to take her to jail if she didn’t produce the item.
Merits in the rulingFrom this ruling the commission’s fight against racial profiling by police and its fight on the protection of the rights of all citizens became a success story. The commission also established that this kind of discrimination is a deep rooted habit and a most systemic bias in many police forces. This ruling has triggered the conscience of the public and of the peel police on the existence of racial discrimination in the larger Toronto area. Tribunal suggested policies to be implemented by the peel region police services in order to avoid future cases of racial profiling or any other type of racial harassment. The changes were welcomed in the police department even by the chief commissioner Barbara Hall.
A directive specifically prohibiting racial profiling was developed. This ensured that during investigation process if the race played an irrelevant part in decision making, then it should be avoided. This will prevent forms of stereotyping.Courts used to look for direct evidence of racial profiling, when in reality most racial profiling cases relied on circumstantial evidence. This land mark ruling has proved to other courts of law that circumstantial evidence can be relied on to make the ruling.
Laroux, P. (2009) argues that the Courts should be alive to the reality that most racial profiling is unconscious and systemic and that it has made its way into many of the criminal profiles relied on by police.Another advantage of this ruling is that peel region police was required by the tribunal to employ an external consultant who is an expert in racial profiling to assist in developing the new directives and training materials. This ensured that proper program that suits all people was developed. They were again required to provide the commission with the name of the expert and the contents of the new directives and training materials. This allowed the commission to review if there were complaints with the tribunal’s ruling.
Retraining of the peel region officers and their seniors was also ensured. Training was a requirement of the tribunal. According to Lexdon Business Library (2008), the directive ensured that all new recruits, current officers, Mr. Elkington, new and current supervisors were trained again are trained on the new directive, the social science literature on racial profiling and the current case law.Christian Cotroneo (2007) noted that there is a lot of denial from police regarding the existence of racial profiling; their protestations have become increasingly muted in light of the state of societal knowledge of the realities of racial profiling by some police officers. Despite good recognition of negative effects of racial profiling by courts, people seeking compensation on damages for racial profiling has been met with significant obstacles and low levels of success.
Julian, F., Jackie, E. (2008) said that Ontario Court of Appeal has noted that, while the adjudicative facts – or the “who, what, why, when and where” – of a particular case emerge from a social context, evidence of “social facts” is not enough.After the ruling, Jacqueline Nassiah’s lawyer Davies Bagambiire said that the ruling set a precedent with wider implications for anyone who exercises legal authority. This means that anyone with legal authority should exercise it in accordance with the law.
The ruling finally showed that justice had been served.According to Christian Cotroneo (2007) a journalist with Toronto star, Jacqueline Nassiah who had lived in Mississauga for more than 20 years encountered a bad experience that changed her view of going out for shopping with her son. It brought the fear in her of facing cops especially with her son.This ruling brought some changes to the peel region police on how they should carry out other similar investigation. This has help avoid other cases of racial profiling.
The Peel Regional Police was required by the tribunal recommendations to take systemic steps in addressing racial profiling incidents and to prevent future discriminatory practices of a similar nature (human rights and equity services newsletter, 2007).One of the changes that was seen in the police department were; training of all new recruits, current officers, Mr. Elkington, new and current supervisors on the new directive, the social science literature on racial profiling. Also the commission was to be informed when the training was complete. This allowed greater association and collaboration between the peel police and Ontario human rights commission.
Other changes that occurred after the ruling were; implicated police officer Mr. Richard Elkington no longer works for Peel region police force. He was moved to Sudbury where he works as an officer. There was also changes on the way police were to develop its policing services to the community. The tribunal’s ruling required that an external consultant with expertise in racial profiling be employed to assist in developing new directive and training materials for its officers. This ensured that proper program on policing suited all people.
This external consultant developed a policy that did not favor any of the sides.The decision by the tribunal helped to support the results of the Commission’s inquiry into racial profiling, and also encouraged more victims who had been affected by this racial profiling to report it to the commission for investigation. It also encouraged the use of policy work and litigation in the interest of the public. The Commission is always willing to work with police services in effecting these changes. Finally the tribunal’s order to the Ontario Human Rights Commission to pursue other similar cases has greatly helped the entire public of Toronto in fighting for the rights of the minorities.
Julian, F., Jackie, E. (2008) considers the issue of what knowledge of “social context” a “reasonable person” should be expected to have, and held that a reasonable person must be taken to be aware of the existence of widespread discrimination and racism: The reasonable person is not only a member of the Canadian community, but also, more specifically, is a member of the local communities in which the case at issue arose. There have other reports of racial profiling where a police officer stops and questions young black or aboriginal youth for “hanging around” in public places. Under this situations where there is no automatic venue to lay criminal charges of racial profiling, Julian, F.
, Jackie, E. (2008) suggests the use of forums such as human rights complaints, police complaints or civil action by the victims to air their grievances.Because of lack of enough funding to file the case of racial profiling most of them do not succeed in courts. Due to this poor funding legal access has been left to the wealthy. This can be seen in the success of many legal cases where by the complainants have been celebrities with a lot of money to spend in filing and hiring reputable lawyers. Julian, F.
, Jackie, E. (2008) fund that Decovan (“Dee”) Brown who was a professional basketball player for the Toronto Raptors and Kirk Johnson, who was an internationally recognized Nova Scotia boxer, brought a successful human rights complaint based on racial profiling.Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) policy and guidelines on racism and racial discrimination states that “In order to prove an allegation of profiling, it must be shown that the person alleged to have profiled had some opportunity to observe or presume the race of the complainant.”