Regina police chief discounts racism in police force

REGINA – Is the Regina Police Service racist?

That’s the question faced Friday by Chief Troy Hagen in the wake of the admission that racists exist in the RCMP.

“There is absolutely no reason for me to believe that we have racists within the Regina Police Service,” said Hagen.

The historic RCMP admission came as a surprise from Commission Bob Paulson as he addressed First Nations Chiefs Wednesday in Quebec.

“I understand that there are racists in my police force, I don’t want them to be in my police force,” Paulson stated.

While Paulson reveals the striking truth about his force, Hagen says nothing in his 10 years as Chief points to similar issues within the RPS.

“I can never recall a substantiated complaint where racism has been an issue,” said Hagen.

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But concerns have surfaced with many coming from the aboriginal community.

“Many of the First Nations students [in my class] talk about racism in their own lives,” said Dr. Kathleen O’Reilly, a human justice professor at the First Nations University of Canada.

She says it occurs often, in relation to the police tactic known as carding or street checks. It’s when officers stop and document personal information of random people on the street.

“This wasn’t an issue five or 10 years ago, but it has become an issue,” added Hagen.

That’s because the tactic has been proven to be abused.

In Toronto, data revealed that police carded black and brown men at a vastly disproportionate rate compared to their white peers, often without reason.

“Racism is often so entrenched that we can’t even see it. Sometimes it comes through our assumptions or stereotypes,” Dr. O’Reilly explained.

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So, how do we know if such abuse happens in Regina? The information gathered from street checks is stored in a database, but according to Hagen, there’s no way to determine patterns.

“It’s because we don’t have a robust procedure in place right now to track it,” said Hagen.

Due to the lack of procedures, officers continue conducting street checks at their discretion, but unless someone is being arrested or detained there are rights they should know.

“There is no obligation whatsoever for that person to provide any personal information about themselves,” explained Hagen.

Also at an officer’s discretion is to tell people being stopped their rights during a random street check.

Currently, the Saskatchewan Police Commission is conducting a review of the process and will develop a policy on carding and street checks. Only time will tell what it will include.