New WRPS race-based data shows disproportionate use of force against Black people
KITCHENER -- Waterloo Regional Police Service (WRPS) have released their report detailing the use of force by officers and have included race-based data for the first time.
The report is included in the agenda for the Wednesday meeting of the police services board and includes statistics from January to June of this year.
Of the 244 subjects identified by race in the use of force report, 161 subjects were perceived as white, 40 were perceived as Black, 18 Middle Eastern, eight South Asian, seven Latino, seven East Asian, and three Indigenous.
In terms of percentages, 66 per cent of the subjects who had force used against them were white, compared to recent census statistics indicating that roughly 80 per cent of the population is white.
Likewise, three per cent of Waterloo Region’s population is Black, but Black subjects made up 16 per cent of those who had force used against them.
Fanis Juma, the founder of African Community Wellness and an organizer of Black Lives Matter Waterloo Region, says the data is not a surprise, but a representation of a system that is failing.
"What it represents is confirmation of our lived experience," she said. "Some of these people still might be coming out of crisis as a result of crime, but we also know that the root causes of crime are not being addressed right now. There's increased criminalization in our communities when these root causes are not addressed.
"I believe that racial justice education is important and necessary and anti-racism education is important and necessary for every member of society. We think it's an important part of everbody's formation certainly with everyone who interacts with the public. As a response to this crisis, it’s inadequate and inappropriate."
Selam Debs with the Anti-Racism Community Collective believes the report proves police should be defunded and resources should be reallocated.
"To take some of that money and invest back into our communities, that is a real, tangible shift and change," she said. "Hiring more police officers that are radicalized and doing this implicit bias training isn't going to change the fact that first of all, our prisons disproportionately have Black people incarcerated. It's not going to change the fact that our students and our youth in this community have had those touch points, have had those interactions with police. It's not going to change the general impacts of systemic racism."
Police say that, while new initiative to collect race-based data is in alignment with their Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity Strategic Plan, the tool is not well-suited in its current form to address potential issues related to systemic racism and race-based disproportionality.
They add that there are no directions from the provincial government on a strategy for the data collection or analysis, but commit to providing future reports quarterly.
The report also indicates police will receive anti-racism training with an ephasis on anti-Black racism training in 2021.
"We need to go beyond diversity and inclusion, because diversity and inclusion is including into what? Including into an institution that is inherently racist?" said Debs. "We don't want that. We want something new.
"Just trying to change the minds and the hearts of police officers and trying to change that institution is not enough. We need tangible steps that actually protect and invest in our communities to remove the criminalization and the institutional school to prison pileline that very much exists in Canada."
WRPS told CTV News they would be happy to provide a comment once the report is presented to the board on Wednesday.