MONTREAL — A new website that allows Montrealers to self-report interactions with police will make it easier to advocate for the better treatment of racialized people, according to its creators.
The STOPMTL.ca site, introduced Wednesday, will collect information anonymously on the nature of police stops, including the place and time of the incident as well as the age, gender and ethnic origin of the civilian involved. Montrealers can self-report their interactions with police the day they happen — or from as far back as 20 years ago.
The project, which seeks to gather reliable statistics on Montreal police interactions with the public, was created by a multidisciplinary research team involving professors from Quebec and the United Kingdom. Carolyn Côté-Lussier, the project’s lead researcher and professor of urban studies at Quebec's Institut national de la recherche scientifique, says the fact Montreal police record between five and 20 per cent of their interactions contributes to a false representation of the reality.
"Community organizations do not have access to Montreal police data and their claims are often not taken seriously because they do not have the numbers to back them up," Côté-Lussier said in a news release Wednesday. Those groups, Côté-Lussier added, have been calling for a more accurate picture of police stops from the perspective of citizens in order to improve the treatment of racialized people.
Montreal police recognized the existence of "systemic biases" leading to racial profiling, following a 2019 independent study that found Black people, Indigenous people and Arabs were four to five times more likely to be stopped by police than white citizens. The study stated Black people were stopped "in a very disproportionate way compared to the size of their population."
Myrna Lashley, one of the project's researchers and assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at McGill University, said the map could assist policy-makers and politicians to determine in which geographical areas to best invest resources. "It will provide a visual representation of the so-called hot spots where most citizen-police stops occur and could result in meaningful police-citizen conversations based on evidence rather than hearsay," Lashley said.
Quebec's Institut national de la recherche scientifique used a technology widely applied by apps such as Tripadvisor, Google Maps and Waze, to map habits or behaviours across specific locations. Anyone over the age of 15 is invited to report a police experience, which will be reviewed and compared with existing information, and any missing or erroneous data will not be compiled, Côté-Lussier said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on July 14, 2021.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
The Canadian Press