WRPS releases racial-based data on their use-of-force reports for the first time

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Waterloo Regional Police (WRPS) release a use-of-force report on a biannual that documents police officers’ use of physical force when responding to a call of service. New to the report this year is racial-data collected from all 200 use-of-force reports between January and June 2020 in the Waterloo Region. 

“The incorporation of race-based data is aligned with the WRPS commitment to the principles of transparency and accountability, and the WRPS Equity, Inclusion &Diversity (EID) Strategic Plan (2019-2022). Future reports will allow for consistent comparisons that will be encompassed in a comprehensive WRPS Race-Based Data Collection Strategy to address the existence of systemic issues and race-based disproportionality,” The WRPS said during their report meeting on October 14. 

Out of 161 of the 200 use-of-force calls, the subject was perceived as white by officers, representing 66 percent of the 200 cases, while white people account for nearly 80 percent of the region’s population. 

In contrast, Black people accounted for 16 percent of all instances in the first half of this year while representing only three percent of the region’s population. Black people are over-represented in the use-of-force reports more than five times their population representation in the region.

  Overrepresentation of Black people in police encounters is not an issue unique to the Waterloo Region. Instead, it points towards issues in how communities are policied and the institution of Policing itself. Focused attention towards police brutality was recently ignited last summer, after George Floyd, A Black man, was murdered by officers at the Minneapolis department. Since then, more significant needs for police defunding and reforms have emerged worldwide. 

Kathy Hogarth, an associate professor at the School of Social Work at Renison University College, says the most interesting aspect of the use-of-force report may be that the racial-based data was even released. 

“We have a bad system, so when we’re talking about systemic change, let’s go back to the roots. Police were created as a tool to manage Black and Indigenous bodies,” Hogarth said to CTV News Kitchener.

Although this data may encourage police reforms and provide valuable insight into the institution’s flaws, the WRPS notes the limited scope of the “perception of subject race” data in its current state.

“Given that this is the first time that “perception of subject race” has been incorporated into this bi-annual report, the ability to conduct a detailed comparative or trend analysis on the single measure of perceived race is currently limited,” The WRPS said in their October 14 report meeting. 

Each of the reports is reviewed, and reporting officers’ actions are analyzed by platoon staff sergeants, followed by the Divisional or Branch/Unit Inspector. Finally, the Training and Education Unit that examines all cases service-wide for consistency. 

According to the WRPS, in all reports analyzed during this period, officers utilized good judgment and de-escalation techniques when required. Intervention methods were found to comply with regulation and procedure.

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