Does race influence police officers? Results of project to be unveiled soon

The Whig-Standard
Local News - Tuesday, May 24, 2005 @ 07:00

A much anticipated, year-long tracking of the race of people stopped by Kingston Police will be revealed at the public library.

Police announced Friday that the controversial data collection project’s findings will be released at a meeting on Thursday in the Wilson Room of the Johnson Street public library branch in Kingston, beginning at noon.

Citizens are welcome to attend but won’t be able to comment on the findings, which are being presented during the regular monthly meeting of the police services board, the civilian body that oversees the department.

Scot Wortley, a professor at the Centre of Criminology at the University of Toronto will present his analysis of the data.

The project required Kingston Police officers to record the race of every person they stopped or questioned.

Police Chief Bill Closs persuaded the board in 2003 to proceed with the pilot project after a number of high-profile events, including two incidents in which officers pointed guns at a young black Kingston man who had not committed any crime.

The project wrapped up in September and its data is still being analysed.

Police refused to release any details about the findings until the analysis is complete.

In March, Closs said he expected heavy criticism.

“We are going to be criticized for how we did it, why we did it and what the results were,” Closs told The Whig-Standard after a police board meeting.

“But the only thing I can say to that is we made a good decision by doing it and now we’ll just let the chips fall where they may.”

The initiative was condemned by some police departments, police unions and police chiefs as a witchhunt and a waste of time.

The Kingston tracking project also followed an order by Closs that was enacted in May 2003 that forbids bias-based policing by Kingston officers.

It marked the first time in Canada that a police department explicitly banned what is often called racial profiling, the practice of singling out citizens for police attention because they are identifiable members of a racial or ethnic group.