Street check compliance down in 2021, but no cause for alarm, Edmonton Police Commission hears

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A sample of more than 5,000 street checks conducted by city police and reviewed in a recent audit had a compliance rate of 83 per cent, the Edmonton Police Commission heard Thursday.

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A total of 5,494 street checks were completed between July 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021. Of those, 168 were sampled as part of a recent review.

Steven Duong, an audit and risk co-ordinator with Edmonton police, told the commission during its final public meeting of the year that despite the drop in compliance from 96 per cent in 2020 to 83 per cent in 2021, the findings were “not alarming.”

“We didn’t find evidence that street checks are being done based on protected grounds such as race,” he said. “They were more so of an administrative or report-writing nature.”

Edmonton police defines street checks as “a subject stop when there are no grounds for arrest, but rather the result of proactive policing and/or contact and engagement with a person or group of people. The purpose of a street check is to gather street level intelligence that may assist members in increasing public safety through preventing, intervening and suppressing crime, and to further investigations.”

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A total of 33 exceptions were identified in the review.

Out of the exceptions, six were identified because the report either did not indicate why the check occurred or did not provide sufficient information to determine why, one due to an assumption that individuals were likely committing crimes in an area due to their history of theft and lack of employment, one included an instance of describing an individual as “mentally slow,” and another because the criminal history of the person was documented in the report, which appeared irrelevant to the check.

Duong said three recommendations were made based off of the compliance rate — to improve street check report-writing training for reviewers, improve street check training for frontline members and improve the use of an inclusive language guide.

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He noted there could be a number of factors in why there was a drop in the compliance rate, including that this is the first year his branch is taking on the audit.

“The way we did things could be different,” he said. “But we also recognize that when we’re reviewing these reports, there’s a bit of subjectivity to it, so it depends on who’s reviewing these reports.”

Meanwhile, the commission heard there has been an increase in hate-motivated crimes including racist rhetoric, physical attacks, and property damage in 2021.

Between Jan. 1 and Sept. 15 of this year, there have been 97 hate-motivated crimes in Edmonton, a report titled Commitment to Action outlined. This compares to a total of 60 in 2020.

Of the hate crimes reported so far this year, 41 were crimes against people and 56 were property crimes.

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Deputy police chief Kevin Brezinski said there are a number of factors that could be contributing to the spike.

“We did see an uptick in some complaints or hate-motivated incidents involving our Asian community but also our Muslim community,” he said. “I think we’ve seen a significant increase of events this year versus last year and I think partly because people are reporting it more which we’re going to encourage, certainly, but also I think awareness.”

Police Chief Dale McFee said there is more that can be done to address hate crimes, such as legislation change from the federal government to better define what a hate crime is.

“A lot of these things don’t meet the requirement of what it means to be a hate crime,” he said.

“They do meet the fact that it could be a crime where hate is involved, which means we can speak to sentence, but we can’t maybe get the severity of what we’re trying to get to stop the behaviour.”

ajunker@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/JunkerAnna

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