Data, Denials and Confusion: The Racial Profiling Debate in Toronto
Research on Racial Profiling
Racial profiling: when members of certain racial or ethnic groups become subject to greater levels of
criminal justice surveillance than others. Eg. Stop and search practices, racial differences in customs
searches, increased police patrols in racial minority neighbourhoods, etc.
- Racial profiling involves racial bias in police investigation , not racial bias in arrest decisions or
racial bias in police treatment after arrest. Eg. Over-representation of blacks could mean subject
to greater police surveillance. However, could also mean that blacks are simply more involved in
certain criminal activities.
- Data suggests blacks are 8 times more likely to be stopped and searched by police than whites.
required to record race of people stopped or searched
- However, number of field studies have uncovered evidence that racial profiling may exist
o Eg. James (1998) conducted intensive interview with over 50 black youth from southern
Ontario. Being stopped by the police was common to them. James concludes that these
similar results. Both white and black agreed black males are much more likely to be
- But above samples were rather small and not random.
- A survey in 1994 of over 1200 Toronto residents found black people much more likely to report
involuntary police contact than either whites or Asians.
o Eg. Almost half (44%) of black male respondents reported to have been stopped by
police at least once in the past 2 years and (30%) reported to have been stopped on 2 or
o Only 12% of white males and 7% of Asian males reported multiple police stops
o Multivariate analyses revels Z]((v]v}o]}vv[Æo]vÇ
racial differences in social class, education or other demographic variables
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o In general, whites with high incomes and education less likely to be stopped than whites
who score lower in social class
o Blacks with high incomes and education are actually more likely to be stopped than
- Recent survey with 3400 Toronto high school students provide more evidence of racial profiling:
o Over 50% of black students reported they had been stopped and questioned on 2 or
more occasions in the previous 2 years
o Compared to 23% whites, 11% Asians, and 8% South Asians
o Over 40% black students claimed to have been physically searched in previous 2 years
o Compared to 17% of white, and 11% Asians.