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Edmonton Police Commission decision to launch police street check review ‘disingenuous’: Black Lives Matter

A photo of Bashir Mohamed of Edmonton chapter of Black Lives Matter taken on July 13, 2017.
A photo of Bashir Mohamed of Edmonton chapter of Black Lives Matter taken on July 13, 2017. Global News

The Edmonton chapter of Black Lives Matter says a third-party review of police street checks, announced on Wednesday by the Edmonton Police Commission (EPC), should have been discussed with them first, since they believe it was their investigation into the controversial practise that triggered the development.

“We were caught off guard by the announcement,” Bashir Mohamed, co-chair for policing with Black Lives Matter in Edmonton, said on Thursday. “At no point did they reach out to us prior to announcing. We found that a little bit odd because we were the groups that analyzed the data and released it, so it seems a bit disingenuous that they would come out and do this.”

The EPC announced an external review of street checks, or carding, just over two weeks after Black Lives Matter revealed academic analysis of data it obtained from a freedom of information request on Edmonton Police Service (EPS) street checks from 2012 to 2016. Its data showed indigenous and black Edmontonians are much more likely to be subject to street checks, which is when police stop citizens not necessarily suspected of a crime to speak to them or collect personal information.

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READ MORE: Edmonton police’s controversial street check practice to undergo third-party review

Watch below: A third-party external review is being launched amid concerns over how Edmonton police handle the controversial practice of conducting street checks. The development comes after numbers showed black or indigenous Edmontonians were more likely to be targets of street checks.

Edmonton Police Service’s street checks practice to be independently reviewed
Edmonton Police Service’s street checks practice to be independently reviewed

On Thursday, Black Lives Matter and Stolen Sisters – a social justice group that advocates for indigenous people – released a joint statement in response to the EPC announcement in which they suggested the commission has arrived late to the discussion when it comes to the controversy around street checks and allegations of racial profiling.

“The commission should have already been doing this work,” the statement reads.

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“They should have requested the data, analyzed it, and questioned the police on this practice. In fact, prior to today, we could not find a case of the police commission questioning the practice of street checks. Instead, we had to do their work for them. The fact that this work hasn’t been done highlights a serious problem with the police commission.”

Police have argued street checks are an invaluable tool for preventing crime because they say it allows officers to engage with the community and better understand who may be committing crimes and who may be a victim of crime. While citizens have the right to refuse a street check, police have told Global News officers are not told to explain to people their rights when they stop them for a street check.

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“The only thing we’re opposed to is the collection of people’s information when they’re not suspected of doing anything wrong,” Mohamed said.

“We’re sticking with our stance. We want street checks to end by Jan. 1, 2018 and we want the data to be destroyed.

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“This has become a major issue and it is good that they’re talking about it and that they’re having these discussions and everything… At the end of the day, the facts are on the table. We have our report, we hope all parties have read the report.”

READ MORE: Aboriginal women, black people much more likely to be ‘carded’ by Edmonton police

Watch below: On June 27, 2017, Fletcher Kent filed this report on black or indigenous Edmontonians being more likely to be stopped in a police street check.

New numbers prompt call for Edmonton police to abandon street checks
New numbers prompt call for Edmonton police to abandon street checks

Mohamed said he has questions about the EPC review that he still wants answers to, including: what consultant will be hired to do the work; who will oversee the consultant’s work; and what the review will look into specifically.

“Because if they’re asking about data, we have the numbers,” he said. “We’ve had three independent sources look at the data and crunch the numbers.”

Mohamed said he hopes Edmontonians will attend a panel discussion on the matter at the Unversity of Alberta on Saturday, featuring prominent anti-carding activist Desmond Cole. For information about the event, click here.

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“If we further criminalize indigenous women and black Edmontonians, then that creates more division between the police and that group of people,” Mohamed said. “If you want to create stronger relations, then the first step is to acknowledge this is a problem.”

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The police commission has said work on the review was expected to get underway by the end of August and that it hopes to have the review completed by December, although that could be extended.