Ottawa cops move ahead with race-based data collection

Ottawa police Inspector Pat Flanagan.

Credits: File Photo.


OTTAWA -- Ottawa police will spend $90,000 for data research expertise to help with its controversial race-based data collection set to launch next year.

Another $40,000 for a "data collection instrument" has also been set aside for the traffic stop race data collection project.

In total the project will cost about $400,000 over two years.

"There are no new monies being attributed to this project," Ottawa police Insp. Pat Flanagan said. "It's coming from within existing budget."

Ottawa will become the first major Canadian city to collect such data at traffic stops, stemming from a 2005 human rights complaint by Chad Aiken, then 18, who accused cops of pulling him over because he is black.

Collecting race data at traffic stops was mandated in a settlement between Ottawa police and Ontario Human Rights Commission, which also stated police must engage expertise.

Such expertise would help officers navigate unfamiliar territory that has already worried critics about a flurry of lawsuits and negative impacts on the force.

Over the next three months, police will host a series of consultations designed to raise awareness and ensure the public has the opportunity to speak up about the project. The consultation plan report was presented at the Ottawa Police Services Board meeting on Monday.

A York University research team is the expertise hired to help collect and analyze the racial data.
Police would not disclose the number of applicants but said the online expert posting attracted "a fair bit of activity."

There is no template for such a data collection project, Flanagan said, which police hope will "increase trust and confidence" from the public.

The collection project will be the largest of its kind in the country.

More than 50,000 cars are stopped by Ottawa police each year, according to its website.

Feedback will aso include interviews, targeted outreach and focus groups. Multicultural groups, business improvement associations and the taxi industry are among several community areas police have reached out to.

Police can already get opinions through a web-based questionnaire but are planning a social media chat next month.

A public consultation session is scheduled for Jan. 31, with more information to be released early next year.

Information gathered through the consultations will help develop the project, according to the report, and will be presented back to the Ottawa Police Sservices Board early in the new year.

Collecting race-based traffic stop data is slated to begin in April.

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