Blacks, Indigenous over represented in Vancouver police stops: 10 years of data
Published Thursday, June 14, 2018 1:36PM PDT Last Updated Thursday, June 14, 2018 7:13PM PDT
Indigenous and civil rights advocates are demanding that Vancouver police investigate what they call “indisputable” evidence of the over representation of Aboriginal and black people in street checks over the past decade.
The practice, also called police stops or “carding,” involves stopping a person outside of an investigation, questioning them and recording their personal information.
According to police data between 2008 and 2017 obtained through Freedom of Information requests, First Nations people were stopped 15 per cent of the time when they represent just two per cent of the general population. Blacks were also stopped five per cent of the time, when they represent less than one per cent of the population.
The B.C. Civil Liberties Association and the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs compiled the data, and called the statistics proof of systemic police discrimination and racial profiling. At a Thursday press conference, they asked the province’s police complaints commissioner to investigate.
“Based on the VPD’s own data, it is indisputable that Indigenous and Black people are shockingly over-represented in police stops in Vancouver,” Josh Paterson, Executive Director of the BCCLA, said in a news release. “We are asking for an immediate, independent investigation to determine what is going on and how this can be fixed.”
“The statistics on racial disparity in street carding demonstrate the lived reality of institutional racism that our people face despite the public rhetoric and celebrations around reconciliation,” added Chief Bob Chamberlin, Vice-President of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs in a press statement. “We can’t be any clearer – this must be investigated, the VPD must publicly apologize and make an immediate commitment to change their terribly discriminatory practices.”
In response to the statistics, VPD Police Chief Adam Palmer defended police checks as necessary to root out suspected crime.
“A street check occurs when a police officer encounters someone believed to be involved in criminal activity or a suspicious circumstance, and documents the interaction. They are not random or arbitrary checks,” he said in a press statement Thursday.
“The VPD does not control where crime falls along racial and gender lines. It is unrealistic to expect population and crime ratios to be aligned. For example, women make up about half of the population and men make up the other half. However, more than 80 per cent of crime is committed by men. It’s important to note that the majority of our street checks involve Caucasians,” he added.
In February, a former UBC Thunderbirds football player says he was arrested for jaywalking on Granville Street, tackled by multiple officers and Tasered all because he’s black. The moment was caught on video.
“I’m a big black male crossing the street and they [the police officers] acted out of fear rather than doing their job. What are they scared of?” Moore-Williams told CTV News after his arrest.
The Vancouver Police Department denied he was stopped because of his race and told CTV Vancouver in a statement that it was because he jaywalked in front of a marked police car.
Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson reacted to today's call for an investigation by saying, "I am concerend by the whole street checks policy that we're working on at the Vancouver Police Department and board."
"We need to be ensuring the system is fair," he added.
Statistics Canada says Aboriginal people account for 26 per cent of admissions to provincial and territorial correctional services, despite being only three per cent of the Canadian population.
Elaine Desrocher, who says she is Metis living in the downtown eastisde, says: "I don't think it's necessary for me to tell people what I'm doing. It's my business...it's my right to not have the police tap me on the shoulder because of the colour of my skin." pic.twitter.com/fiPu1clJ4x— Jon Woodward (@ctv_jon) June 14, 2018