‘Disproportionately higher incidents’ of force against Black, Indigenous people in 2021, Ottawa police say

Ottawa police say there were “disproportionately higher incidents” of use of force against Black, Indigenous and Middle Eastern people by officers last year.

A report for Monday’s Ottawa Police Services Board meeting looks at Use of Force by officers during the 220,600 calls for service responded to in 2021.

There were 280 Use of Force incidents reported in 2021, involving 322 people.

“Individuals who were perceived by officers to be Black had force used against them 4.3 times more than what you would expect based on their segment of the population,” says the report for the board. 

Indigenous people were three times more likely to have force used against them, while Middle Eastern people were 2.2 times more likely, according to the data collected by Ottawa police.

“Disproportionate findings reflect long-standing and unresolved system racism and related intersectional issues that are still found within the justice system, other institutions, and our larger society – policing is no different,” the report says. “We need to work together to better understand these disparities and eliminate them.”

Caucasian people were 0.7 times more likely than expected to be involved in Use of Force incidents.

In May, the Ottawa Police Service released its 2020 Use of Force report, which showed Black people were 4.8 times more likely to have force used against them and Middle Eastern people were 2.4 times more likely.

Ottawa police say the service is committed to working with police and community members to “reduce Use of Force incidents and the disproportionate rates.”

In 2020, Ontario’s Anti-Racism Data Standards required police to collect race-based data for several areas, including on the Use of Force reports submitted by officers. Police say the goal of the data collection requirement is to help address systemic racism concerns and promote equitable service delivery.

The report says “significant human rights and equity, diversity and inclusion learning modules” have been introduced to all OPS members in recent years. Some of the training for members in 2021-2022 included anti-Indigenous racism and Indigenous cultural awareness, Understanding Systemic Racism training from the Human Rights Commission and anti-Black racism learning sessions.

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