Advisory Panel to inform Hamilton Police race-based data

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Published February 2, 2024 at 2:43 pm

Hamilton Police is launching an advisory panel to inform the development of its Race and Identity-Based Data Strategy (RIBD).

The service describes the as “focused on understanding and addressing police impact on racial inequalities, including differences in outcomes like use of force among racial groups, internal policies, and training practices.”

Chief Frank Bergen wrote of th initiative’s importance, “I cannot stress enough the value of community involvement in shaping our Race and Identity-Based Data strategy. The establishment of a Community Advisory Panel (CAP) is a pivotal move towards better transparency and accountability.”

The project is a result of a provincial directive from 2020 which instructed Ontario police forces to track the races of the people they use force to detain.

“Use of force” is a range of scenarios, including instances where firearms are drawn, pointed, or discharged, pepper spray, Tasers, or physical force resulting in injuries requiring medical attention, according to these reports.

The process found Hamilton Police are far more likely to use force against Black, South East Asian, and Middle Eastern people than average.

Bergen notes Hamilton Police are trained only to use the “minimum force necessary” to detain suspects.

However, there have been examples in which police used excessive fore, most notably when arresting officer Cst. Brian Wren brutally beat Patrick Tomchuk, an Indigenous man, during an arrest in 2022. Wren later pled guilty to assault. In that year, there were a total of 409 documented ‘use of force reports’ filed in 2022, marking a significant increase of 361 incidents in 2021.

In the effort to track such incidents, Bergen said, “It’s crucial that community members bring their perspectives, expertise and lived-experience, to guide us in analyzing critical data on issues like use of force. Their input is not just welcome – it is essential for ensuring this approach is fair, effective, and truly reflective of the community’s needs.”

As a result, Hamilton Police will put together an eight to 10-person volunteer panel. “Their task is to infuse the strategy with perspectives, insights, and viewpoints to ensure it is well-rounded and actionable,” police describe. In a McMaster University-advised process, applicants can apply online and if selected will move forward to an interview.

Police say applicants must be;

  • Individuals passionate about data, social justice and community service.
  • Those with experience in human rights, procedural justice, and race and identity issues (i.e. racism, trauma, bias).
  • Individuals with a diversity of perspective and representative of all backgrounds and positionalities (including; but not limited to, race, ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, disability, citizenship, and socio-economic status).
  • Community members eager to contribute to positive change in policing and public safety.

“The Race and Identity-Based Data (RIBD) Strategy will assist the Hamilton Police Service to better understand and address racial disparities. It will also help the Service to identify ways to better support members in their delivery of fair and equitable service,” they wrote.

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