Skip to content

Regional police are changing how they analyze some race-based data in hopes of better tackling systemic racism

The changes affect how police dig deeper into racial disparities in intelligence notes
Waterloo Regional Police headquarters
CityNews file photo

Regional police are changing the way they analyze some of the race-based data they collect in hopes of being better able to identify and address systemic racism.

The changes were outlined during a presentation this week to the police services board and they have to do with police intelligence notes.

It's one of four areas in which WRPS officers have been required to also make note of a subject's 'perceived race' since 2020. Police say they're essentially used to help further investigations and are most commonly used to link people, locations, and vehicles.

According to numbers from last year, police created 782 such notes in which 555 focused on individuals, 223 were focused on vehicles in which a subject was not also present, and four were for general information, like if a paramedic reported increased drug-use present at a particular location.

"Looking at the rational for creating intelligence notes across 2022, we see the notes were most frequently created for the purposes of documenting information related to drugs and drug-trafficking," said Mandy Williams, Manager of Strategic Services with WRPS.

Police say, for analysis purposes, there are two main ways of digging deeper into those numbers when it comes to identifying patterns which may show racial bias.

One is to look for racial disproportion, or the proportion of people from a racialized group compared to the local population as a whole. The other is to look for racial disparity, or comparing the numbers themselves by taking one racialized group and comparing against the proportion of 'white' individuals also included.

"The assumption underlying [racial disproportion] is that everybody in the population has an equal chance of being included in intelligence notes," said Williams. "But, [since intelligence notes are created at an officer's discretion], we know that information captured in intelligence notes are not created on a random basis -- so people don't have an equal likelihood of being involved in an intelligence note."

Because of that, Williams said relying on that type of analysis is 'problematic' and police are now moving toward looking for disparity instead.

"And what we're really asking with this is are groups represented differently within intelligence notes?"

In doing that, Williams also noted there was an over-representation last year involving men aged 20 to 39 though she said there was no evidence of overall racial disparity.

"So, when comparing racialized groups to the 'white' group, which is recommended by the Ontario Data Standards, we see no evidence that racialized groups are over-represented within intelligence notes created last year."

That said, there was a disparity when looking at the reasoning behind why an intelligence note was created.

"We have over-representation of black individuals in intelligence notes to document information related to firearms [...], and we also have over-representation of black individuals in intelligence notes created to document information related to human trafficking," Williams said. 

Williams went on to say police will continue to dig deeper into these numbers and others like them, with the help of a pair of human rights experts, in order continue to improve data-collection and analytic practices so as to better identify racial disparities that may exist in police-public interactions.

She said police will also be looking at how to best document how and where intelligence notes are used for investigative purposes.

Rogers Sports & Media
230 The Boardwalk Kitchener, ON, N2N 0B1
© 2006-2023 Rogers Sports & Media. All rights reserved.
push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks