Traffic Stop Race Data Collection

The results of the Traffic Stop Race Data Collection Project were released by the York Research Team on October 24, 2016. The study examined the relationship between race, sex, age and traffic stops conducted by the Ottawa Police Service between June 27, 2013 and June 26, 2015.

"I would like to thank frontline officers for carrying out this ground-breaking study and for showing leadership on this issue," said OPS Chief Charles Bordeleau about the $400,000+ project. "I also want to thank the many community members, groups and committees for contributing to this project over the last four years. I particularly would like to thank the Community Police Action Committee (COMPAC) and the project's Community-Police Advisory Committee for providing meaningful dialogue and partnership opportunities that helped shape this project."

TSRDCPLaunched from a 2012 settlement agreement between the Ontario Human Rights Commission and the Ottawa Police Services Board, it required police officers to record their perception of the driver's race, by observation only, for traffic stops over a two-year period.

A total of 81,902 records of traffic stops were examined for the study - each record included information on race, sex and age, along with the reasons for traffic stops and outcomes.

The officers entering the race data reported perceiving the race of the driver prior to the stop in 11.4% of the cases.

While the York Research Team said throughout the project that this type of study does not conclude racial profiling, race based data collection is regarded as an important tool to help address racial profiling concerns.

"This study is a correlational study on the relationship between race, sex, age, and traffic stops in Ottawa," the report stated. "It does not deal with the issue of causality.  That is to say, it does not explain why and how these factors are related or not related.  For this reason, the findings only provide a big picture of traffic stops- a picture which provides a fresh and pioneering perspective on race and traffic stops in Canada."

The researchers made six recommendations towards bias-neutral policing: 

  1. Determine possible sources for disproportionate traffic stops by looking at the organization - including police culture, practices, policy, training, human resources, and leadership.
  2. Develop and implement solutions in consultation with stakeholder groups and communities in Ottawa.
  3. Increase positive police-community contact through regular, relationship-building meetings; training police and community members together, and holding "critical incident" discussions.
  4. Continue monitoring race data in traffic stops and provide regular communications updates.
  5. Build on community engagement and develop and action plan to address the issues.
  6. Make the data available to encourage transparency and additional studies.

Superintendent Chris Rheaume is the lead for the next phase of the project - which is focused on developing the multi-year action plan with ongoing community-police engagement. 

Visit ottawapolice.ca/race for complete project information including the study, presentations, and data.

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