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 šZZ]ŒL
racial differences in social class, education or other demographic variables
lZ9and social class
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.
www.notesolution.com o However, data revealed students who engage more in deviance and crime receive more
police attention. Eg. 81% of drug dealers in this sample reported that they had been
search compared to 16% of those students who did not sell drugs
- Multivariate analysis revealed racial differences in police stop and search practices actually
greatest among students with low criminal behaviour.
o Eg. 34% black students not engaged in criminal activity still reported to have been
stopped compared to only 4% of white
o Findings strongly suggest racial profile exists in Toronto
- Because of this, black people much likely to be caught breaking law than whites that do similar
forms of criminal activity
- Professor Harvey argues there is no racial profiling against an article by the Toronto Star
- He complains that CIPS (Toronto police arrest data set) not intended to be a research database
but as long as arrest data is adequately described and subjected to appropriate analysis, there is
absolutely no intrinsic problem with using them for research
- Harvey claims CIPS is only a sample, but in fact CIPS data set is not supposed to be a sample. It is
data designed to represent the total population of criminal charges that includes everything.
- Harvey then decides to replicate the analysis.
o He o]K]LšZoo^Kµoš]‰o}LŒZ_ from the CIPS data, eliminating over half the
completed cases. He believed it would skew data and bias analytical outcomes
o But black people have higher probability of being arrested on multiple occasions.
o Harvey also eliminated offenders charged with more than one crime.
o But black people are more likely to be charged with multiple crimes than whites (over-
- Harvey then decides to only focus on divisions that have a black population greater than 6%. He
justifies by stating the exclusion of