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Overrepresentation of Black people within WRPS 'intelligence notes' leads to review

Two academics are being hired to examine how the data was collected
Waterloo Regional Police headquarters
KitchenerToday file photo

The Waterloo Regional Police Service is planning on hiring a pair of academics to examine data, following a report that found an overrepresentation of Black people within "intelligence notes."

The report was presented during Wednesday's Police Services Board meeting. It showed white people were the subject of police intelligence notes around 73 per cent of the time, and Black people around 11 per cent of the time. The 2016 census found that around 78 per cent of the region's population were white, and 3 per cent were Black.

The Waterloo Region Record first reported on this disproportion last month.

The report also noted that around 30 per cent of those who were subjects in police intelligence reports did not have a permanent residence.

"We do believe, by having external academics, it will bring a different lens, a fresh lens and an external lens to look at how we do business as a police service," said Waterloo Regional Police Chief Bryan Larkin.

He said the academics they hire will present a path forward in their race-base data collection strategy, but he also sees community members being part of the process too. He acknowledged there are difficult conversations ahead, but said the service will be a better one through them.

"Equally having external community members actually provide guidance, oversight of the data collection, and some of the work we're doing. So I actually envision this as a multi-faceted approach."

However, Teneile Warren, a member of the advisory committee for the African, Caribbean and Black Network of Waterloo Region, felt disappointed after watching the Police Board meeting.

"I wasn't particularly impressed. I expected to hear more acknowledgement of the biases within the intelligence notes, and more acknowledgement of that bias is systemic; that it is a part and that its is embedded into policing. That these results are not accidental, and that intelligence notes is really just carding by another names."

Intelligence notes differ from carding as they can include police observations, details during arrests and tips from third-party sources that go beyond asking for ID. However, Warren noted that the results are the same: the over-surveillance of Black people.

She also isn't convinced academics will accomplish much in regards to reviewing the data.

"I'm not sure what they're going to tell me that I don't already know. I think we find ourselves in this constant cycle of pointing something out to the powers that be, and they say, 'Oh we need data, we need our data.' And what we in the community are saying is that you have all the data that you need."

At the bare minimum, Warren wants to see the WRPS, "admit the racism and biases found within policing before the conversation can really move forward."

The ACB Network continues to call for the defunding of police at a minimum of $29.3 million dollars, and the reinvestment into underfunded social supports and initiatives.

Larkin is expected to provide another update at the police services board meeting on October 14.

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