OPP accused of racially profiling Caribbean migrant workers

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OPP accused of racially profiling Caribbean migrant workers

Postby Thomas » Fri Dec 13, 2013 3:28 am

Justicia for Migrant Workers claims about 100 black men swabbed for DNA in sex assault investigation

CBC News Posted: Dec 12, 2013 3:56 PM ET Last Updated: Dec 12, 2013 5:55 PM ET

A group that advocates for the rights of migrant workers alleges the Ontario Provincial Police engaged in racial profiling when its officers took DNA samples from about 100 Caribbean migrant workers.

Justicia for Migrant Workers submitted a complaint to Office of the Independent Police Review Director on Thursday.

In October, an alleged sexual assault occurred, reportedly by a migrant worker, in Vienna, Ont., near Tillsonburg.

Police asked dozens of migrant workers for DNA samples, but not from people who matched the specific suspect description, the advocacy group claims.

The group's spokesman, Chris Ramsaroop, said the suspect was originally described as a black male in his mid to late 20s, 5-11 and muscular.

Ramsaroop said police then tested males between 21 and 61 years old, standing between five feet and 6-5 and weighing between 130 and 310 pounds.

"From talking to the workers, the only characteristic that they decided to do and engage in the volunteer — quote, unquote volunteer — sweep was around racial characteristics," Ramsaroop said.

Lenard Sylvester was one of the workers who voluntarily gave a DNA sample. He thought it was odd for the police to ask him, considering he was much shorter than the suspect police were seeking.

"To me it felt strange, knowing that they had they had a total description of who they're looking for. Colour, height, probably a little bit of the language, too," said the native of Trinidad. "And still they were having everybody doing the DNA testing and requesting it and all that. And they made it look like a show of force."

Police stand by their investigative tactics in the case.

Last week, senior officers announced that DNA evidence had helped lead to the arrest of a migrant worker in the area.

"Criminals know no boundaries and our message today is very clear to them — neither do police," Insp. Dwight Peer said.

Sgt. Dave Rektor denied there was any racial profiling. He said investigators followed the evidence within the parameters of the law.

"We're confident in the investigative results and we stand by our investigation," Rektor said. "In this case here, it was a thorough and complete investigation and we stand behind that."

According to Ramsaroop, workers say they fear unjust prosecution in a foreign land.

Ramsaroop is also concerned about what happens to DNA samples that were not a match to the accused.

Rektor said those are destroyed by the centre of forensic science.

Sylvester said he'll be returning to work again from Trinidad next year, but his views of the police have changed.

"They'll have to show me down the road, probably next year or some time, that they're different," said Sylvester.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/windsor/o ... -1.2461844
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Re: OPP accused of racially profiling Caribbean migrant work

Postby Thomas » Sat Dec 14, 2013 3:36 pm

OPP deny racial profiling in testing of migrant workers after attack on Elgin County woman

It was an arrest the OPP announced with pride.

Six weeks after a vicious sexual assault against a woman who’d been standing on her own front porch in rural Elgin County, the OPP charged a migrant farm worker with the crime.

But now police are being accused of racial profiling -- something they vehemently deny -- in the investigation that eventually led to the arrest.

A group that advocates for migrant workers said the OPP collected DNA evidence from dozens of black men -- all migrant farm workers in the overwhelmingly white Tillsonburg area -- though many didn’t match the description given by the victim.

“There was nothing connecting anything to the people besides the colour of their skin,” said Shane Martinez of the Toronto-based group called Justicia 4 Migrant Workers.

Though the suspect was originally described as being about 5’10” with a muscular build, police asked for voluntary DNA samples from men who varied in age from 20 to 61 and in weight from 130 pounds to 310 pounds, said Martinez. Officers did the interviews individually with suspects in police cruisers.

The organization filed a complaint with the Office of the Independent Police Review Director Thursday afternoon, Martinez said.

Aware of the accusations, a spokesperson said Thursday the OPP “does not conduct profiling which contravenes the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Charter of Rights.

“We conducted a professional and thorough investigation into the matter being talked about. There was an arrest,” said Sgt. Dave Rektor, adding the OPP had not been informed of a complaint by Thursday afternoon.

“We have to look at all of the evidence. We follow it, we take it where it leads us and lay the appropriate charges,” he said. “We deal with migrant workers. They help us, we help them and it is concerning these allegations have come forward,” he said.

Eventually, police charged a 35-year-old man named Henry Cooper with the assault.

http://www.lfpress.com/2013/12/13/opp-d ... unty-woman
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Re: OPP accused of racially profiling Caribbean migrant work

Postby Thomas » Mon Mar 03, 2014 11:26 am

OIPRD to review OPP practices for obtaining voluntary DNA samples in police investigations

TORONTO, March 3, 2014

TORONTO, March 3, 2014 /CNW/ - The Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) is conducting a review of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) practices for obtaining voluntary DNA samples from specific groups of people during criminal investigations.

"Allegations that dozens of migrant workers who were asked to submit to DNA tests for a criminal investigation did not match the description of the suspect except for their dark skin colour, raises the spectre of racial profiling and Charter rights issues. I am undertaking a systemic review that will not only investigate the immediate issues raised, but also dig deeper to explore underlying causes and broader practices to determine whether systemic failings have occurred."
- Gerry McNeilly, Independent Police Review Director

The review will examine public complaints filed, and review and analyze evidence collected from OPP investigations, including audio and video recordings, photographs, documents, interviews and forensic evidence. The review will examine OPP policies, procedures and practices, training material and instruction, along with relevant case law, reports, reviews, articles, documents, research, data and practices from other jurisdictions. The review will also consider submissions from stakeholders and the public. A final report summarizing the findings of the review and outlining recommendations for the overall improvement of police practices will be released to the public.

The Police Services Act gives the Independent Police Review Director the power to examine and review issues of a systemic nature that are the subject of or give rise to public complaints. It also allows the Director to make recommendations regarding these issues to Ontario's Solicitor General, Attorney General, the OPP Commissioner, chiefs of police, police services boards and other persons or organizations, in order to enhance public confidence and trust in police and policing.

http://www.digitaljournal.com/pr/1768350
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Police watchdog investigates OPP over DNA testing

Postby Thomas » Mon Mar 03, 2014 3:50 pm

Ontario’s police watchdog has launched an investigation into the DNA sampling practices of the Ontario Provincial Police after a complaint alleging racial profiling in the case of “dozens” of migrant workers subject to testing because their skin colour matched the suspect’s description.

The review by the Office of the Independent Police Review Director will look at any and all complaints received, evidence in the case, police practices and relevant law to come up with recommendations for the force.

“Allegations that dozens of migrant workers who were asked to submit to DNA tests for a criminal investigation did not match the description of the suspect except for their dark skin colour raises the spectre of racial profiling and Charter rights issues,” said Gerry McNeilly, independent police review director, in a statement released Monday.

The review is systemic in nature, but connected to a case from the Tillsonburg area where as many as 100 migrant farm workers were asked to submit DNA samples in connection with a police search for the suspect in a violent sexual assault.

The group Justicia for Migrant Workers estimates 100 men gave DNA samples, 44 of whom they were able to identify. According to the complaint filed by the group, a woman in Bayham, Ont. told the OPP that she was sexually assaulted by a person on Oct. 19, 2013. The woman described the suspect as a muscular black male, between five-foot-ten and six feet tall, with no facial hair and in his mid-to-late 20s.

Justicia found that farm workers of all ages, weights and heights were asked by officers from the OPP Elgin County detachment to submit DNA samples, with the only common factor being their dark skin colour.

The OPP announced in December that the force arrested 35-year-old Henry Cooper, a migrant worker from Trinidad and Tobago. He was charged with sexual assault with a weapon, forcible confinement and uttering death threats. In a news conference announcing the arrest, the OPP said DNA evidence was key.

Cooper was not among those identified by Justicia as having submitted samples, outreach worker Chris Ramsaroop told the Star in 2013. It is not known if the accused voluntarily provided a DNA sample to police.

“I am undertaking a systemic review that will not only investigate the immediate issues raised, but also dig deeper to explore underlying causes and broader practices to determine whether systemic failings have occurred,” said McNeilly in the release.

OPP Commissioner Chris Lewis responded to the complaint after it was filed, saying, “As an organization, we do not permit our employees to engage in racial profiling.”

http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2014/03 ... sting.html
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Profiling of seasonal workers by OPP to be investigated

Postby Thomas » Thu Mar 06, 2014 2:37 pm

A review is being launched into the OPP’s mass-collection of DNA samples from dozens of Caribbean and other seasonal workers while probing sexual assault allegations last summer at a farm near Tillsonburg.

A probe into the OPP is being welcomed by Justicia for Migrant Workers, a community group that filed a complaint following the collection of DNA from about 100 Black workers of all descriptions, even those who did not match the suspect.

The agricultural workers were subjected to DNA tests in the fields where they worked with others as police probed a woman’s allegations that she was sexually assaulted by a Black man at a home in Bayham, Ont., in October 2013.

The Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) said they are looking into the allegations.

Director Gerry McNeilly, in a release, suggested officers of the OPP Elgin County Detachment may have been involved in racial profiling.

He said “dozens of migrant workers asked to submit to DNA tests for a criminal investigation did not match the description of the suspect except for their dark skin colour”.

It “raises the spectre of racial profiling and Charter rights issues”, McNeilly said, adding his office will “explore underlying causes and broader practices to determine whether systemic failings have occurred”.

Justicia had complained that Black workers of all ages, sizes and weight had to undergo the DNA tests, or they were made to feel guilty of a crime if they refused.

“We welcome the OIPRD’s decision to conduct a systemic review into the OPP’s racial profiling of migrant farm workers,” the group’s lawyer, Shane Martinez, told Share by email.

“This review has the potential to further expose the egregious police misconduct that was perpetrated during the DNA sweep last October,” he said.

Martinezalleges samples were taken only from Caribbean and Afro-Caribbean men. Many of the workers have been returning yearly to work at the same farms in Canada.

Henry Cooper, 35, a migrant worker from Trinidad & Tobago, has been charged with sexual assault with a weapon, forcible confinement and uttering death threats. He is before the courts.

The OIPRD vowed to get to the bottom of the allegations.

The Office, in the statement, said it will examine public complaints filed, and review and analyze evidence collected from OPP investigations, including audio and video recordings, photographs, documents, interviews and forensic evidence.

It will look at OPP policies, procedures and practices, training material and instruction, along with case law, reports, research, data and practices from other jurisdictions.

A review panel will decide whether to hear from stakeholders and the public and a report will be written of its findings and recommendations for the improvement of police practices.

The OIRPD can examine and review issues of a systemic nature that are the subject of public complaints. Its findings are circulated to Ontario’s Solicitor General, Attorney General, the OPP Commissioner, chiefs of police and police services boards.

http://sharenews.com/profiling-of-seaso ... estigated/
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Allegations of racial profiling of migrant workers troubling

Postby Thomas » Thu Jul 17, 2014 7:44 pm

Allegations of racial profiling of migrant workers troubling: OHRC

TORONTO, July 17, 2014 /CNW/ - The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) took another step to eliminate racial profiling in Ontario by speaking out in the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) systemic review of the OPP practices for obtaining voluntary DNA samples. The OHRC is troubled by allegations that the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) engaged in racial profiling when requesting DNA samples from migrant workers near Vienna, Ontario as part of a sexual assault investigation in October and November 2013.

"Racial profiling in any form causes great harm to individuals and in many cases entire communities. We will continue to speak out when we see it happening anywhere in Ontario," said OHRC Chief Commissioner Barbara Hall.

In December 2013, "Justicia for Migrant Workers" (J4MW), a non-profit group that promotes the rights of migrant farm workers, filed a complaint with the OIPRD alleging that the police collected DNA samples from approximately 100 "Indo and Afro-Caribbean" male migrant workers who did not match the suspect description apart from their dark skin colour. On March 3, 2014, the OIPRD announced that it was conducting a systemic review of the OPP's practices for obtaining voluntary DNA samples from specific groups. Racial profiling is a key allegation in J4MW's complaint, and a key component of the OIPRD's review.

The OHRC is concerned that the allegations are consistent with racial profiling, and has delivered a submission to the OIPRD sharing its expertise in racial discrimination and profiling. In particular, the OHRC is concerned that:

    The workers were targeted mainly because of race and stereotypes that Black men and migrant workers are prone to criminal behaviour.
    The requests were coercive, as migrant workers are particularly vulnerable and rarely seek to assert their rights for fear of being sent home.
    The OPP practice of seeking voluntary DNA samples in investigations has a disproportionate impact on racialized groups and marginalized communities.

Racial profiling is prohibited under Ontario's Human Rights Code but remains a daily reality for Aboriginal Peoples and members of racialized, particularly Black, communities in Canada. The OHRC continues to hear about racial profiling that includes unreasonable questioning, requests for identification, retaining personal information, intimidation, searches, aggression – and now, potentially, DNA sampling.

The OHRC has been involved in many cases addressing racial profiling, as well as partnering with various police services and boards in Ontario, including a multi-year Human Rights Project Charter with the Toronto Police Service, and similar ongoing partnerships with the Windsor Police Service and Ontario Police College. These efforts aim to embed human rights in all aspects of operations so that police services can meet the changing needs of an increasingly diverse population.

SOURCE Ontario Human Rights Commission

http://www.digitaljournal.com/pr/2061210
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Re: OPP accused of racially profiling Caribbean migrant work

Postby Thomas » Thu Jul 17, 2014 7:46 pm

OHRC Troubled By Accusations Of Racial Profiling In Vienna Sexual Assault Case

The Ontario Human Rights Commission says it has expressed concerns about alleged racial profiling by the OPP to the Office of the Independent Police Review Director.

The OIPRD is currently reviewing the OPP’s practices for obtaining voluntary DNA samples from specific groups in the wake of racial profiling accusations stemming from a sexual assault investigation in the village of Vienna in Elgin County.

The OHRC announced Thursday that it finds the claims troubling and it shared its concerns with the OIPRD.

On October 19th, 2013 a woman was out on her porch around 9:00 p.m. when the OPP said she was approached by a complete stranger who forced her inside the home. Once inside, police allege the woman was sexually assaulted by her attacker, who left immediately afterwards.

The victim was treated for minor injuries at St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital and was released.

On November 30th, Elgin County OPP arrested 35-year-old Henry Cooper of St. Mary’s Village in Trinidad and Tobago on Saturday, November 30th in connection with the case.

At the time, officers said they used DNA to link Cooper to the crime. In the weeks that would follow, the way that DNA was collected would come under scrutiny.

Justicia for Migrant Workers, or J4MW, accused the OPP of racially profiling migrant workers in the area during their investigation by collecting information from roughly 100 people.

“OPP conducted its investigation with what appears to be a total disregard for the suspect description it issued. DNA samples were taken from Indo and Afro-Caribbean men whose ages ranged from 21 to 61, whose heights ranged from 5’0″ to 6’5″, and whose body sizes ranged between 130 lbs to 310lbs,” a spokesperson said in December 2013.

At the time of the assault, the OPP publicly identified the suspect as “a black man in his mid-to-late-20′s, between 5’10 and 6′ tall with a muscular build, with no facial hair.”

The OPP has flatly denied the accusations.

“The OPP does not condone any form of profiling,” Sgt. Dave Rektor told AM980 when the claims came to light in December. “It’s contrary to the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Canadian Charter of Rights. OPP officers are trained to look at characteristics, behaviours and evidence that can be demonstrated to the relevant criminal behaviour and then if a charge is warranted, it’s laid.”

“I have to reiterate, the OPP does not condone any form of racial profiling and it’s illegal.”

“The OPP investigation into this matter was professional and thorough and ultimately resulted in the arrest of an accused who is before the courts,” Rektor said.

J4MW brought its concerns to the Ontario Human Rights Commission and now that body has spoken out.

“Racial profiling in any form causes great harm to individuals and in many cases entire communities. We will continue to speak out when we see it happening anywhere in Ontario,” said OHRC Chief Commissioner Barbara Hall in a release on Thursday.

The OHRC says it’s concerned that the allegations are consistent with racial profiling and is particularly concerned that the workers were targeted mainly because of race and stereotypes that black men and migrant workers are prone to criminal behaviour. The OHRC says it also has concerns that the OPP’s requests were coercive and that the OPP’s practice of seeking voluntary DNA samples in investigations has a disproportionate impact on racialized groups and marginalized communities.

http://www.am980.ca/2014/07/17/22858/
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Ontario police need better policies for collection of DNA

Postby Thomas » Wed Jul 13, 2016 2:39 pm

Report says Ontario police need better policies for mass collection of DNA samples

A new report by Ontario’s police watchdog body is calling for police services in the province to adopt new policies around the collection of DNA during investigations.

The report was released Tuesday by Independent Police Review Director Gerry McNeilly, who launched a review of police practices around DNA back in March following a complaint about the mass collection of DNA samples from a group of around 100 migrant workers as part of a 2013 OPP investigation into a violent sexual assault in Elgin County.

In that case, a migrant worker from Trinidad was eventually charged and sentenced to seven years in prison after he pleaded guilty to sexual assault with a weapon, forcible confinement and uttering death threats.

However as part of the investigation, police requested DNA samples from virtually every migrant worker in the vicinity – all of them men of colour, raising questions about police profiling and discriminatory practices.

“While I am satisfied that the OPP investigation was not motivated by racial prejudice, the nature and scope of the DNA canvass was overly broad and certainly had an impact on the migrant workers’ sense of vulnerability, lack of security and fairness,” McNeilly said in a statement Tuesday. “A more focused DNA canvass could have reduced concerns about racial profiling.”

The report found that the OPP failed to recognize the vulnerabilities of the migrant workers who were targeted and how that vulnerability affected their consent to give DNA samples. The OPP also failed to make sure that the decision to give or not give samples remained private, particularly from their employer, and didn’t properly explain the destruction process to those who were asked to give samples, the report found.

Going forward, the report recommends that OPP and other police services in the province develop a policy to govern how and when DNA sweeps are conducted. The report also recommends a model for a policy that is consistent with Canadian human rights regulations and sensitivity around vulnerable groups and perceptions of stereotyping.

However McNeilly ‘s report was met with a cold reception Tuesday by the advocacy group that filed the original complaint and felt the report didn’t go far enough.

“We’re extremely angry, we’re disappointed, we’re also frustrated,” Chris Ramsaroop of Justice for Migrant workers told CP24. “This report basically protects the thin blue line. It reinforces the racial harassment, intimidation and humiliation that migrant workers will continue to face across Ontario and across Canada through police actions and police intimidation tactics.

“Right now we’re talking about migrant workers, but all vulnerable communities have to be concerned about infringement of their rights because of this support of DNA practices and DNA sweeps.”

Speaking at a news conference, McNeilly said the purpose of the report was not to identify misconduct among individuals, but to review systemic practices around DNA collection.

While McNeilly’s report found problems with the DNA collection practices in the OPP investigation, he noted that the suspect description and circumstances of the case gave investigators “ample grounds to believe that the perpetrator was one of the local migrant workers of colour.” He also noted that there was urgency to the work as well, with a number of the workers scheduled to soon leave the country at the time of the investigation.

The Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) is responsible for receiving, managing and overseeing all public complaints about the police in Ontario.

http://toronto.ctvnews.ca/report-says-o ... -1.2983631
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Police need clear rules on DNA sampling

Postby Thomas » Wed Jul 13, 2016 2:42 pm

Police need clear rules on DNA sampling, review concludes

Police were “overly broad” when they collected DNA samples from 100 migrant workers in Elgin County following a 2013 sex assault, the Office of the Independent Police Review Director said Tuesday.

And while Gerry McNeilly said the practice fell short of racial profiling, the independent police review director said the DNA canvassing “certainly had an impact on migrant workers’ sense of vulnerability.”

Following an investigation into the incident, the OIPRD is calling for a new and “highly public” policy governing how DNA canvassing occurs within the Ontario police system.

There were calls of “shame” in the room as McNeilly explained his findings at a news conference. “This is racism, Gerry. You’re perpetuating racism,” a man in the room shouted.

Dozens of migrant workers voluntarily gave DNA samples to investigators, although many of them did not fit the description of the suspect other than for the colour of their skin. Police later arrested a suspect in connection to the incident.

McNeilly said the Elgin County OPP failed to recognize whether the migrant workers offering DNA samples were truly consenting to the practice. They also failed to make sure the decisions made by employees in regards to the DNA canvassing were kept private from their employers and didn't explain if and how the DNA samples would be destroyed.

McNeilly's recommendations for new policy planks include making sure the OPP develops an over-arching policy to govern how and when DNA sweeps are conducted, and being transparent about how and when DNA samples are destroyed.

DNA canvasses must be conducted in compliance with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Criminal Code, McNeilly said in his summary. DNA canvassing that relies on stereotypes about race, colour, ethnicity, ancestry, religion or place of origin – rather than on reasonable suspicion – is unlawful, he wrote.

“Some may focus, whether in agreement of disagreement, on my finding that the OPP officers were not motivated by racial prejudice or guided by stereotypical assumptions about persons of colour or migrant workers. Others may focus on my finding that the decision to seek DNA samples from all migrant workers of colour, regardless of their physical characteristics, could well have had an impact on the migrant workers' sense of vulnerability, lack of security and fairness,” McNeilly wrote in his executive summary report, Casting the Net: A Review of Ontario Provincial Police Practices for DNA Canvasses.

“Both perspectives have validity. But ultimately, the findings give context to important recommendations designed to promote effective, bias-free policing and enhance police-community relations, particularly with those who are vulnerable. I believe that is the common goal of every stakeholder who participated in this systemic review. And for that, I am grateful,” he wrote.

While conducting the review, the OIPRD interviewed 10 officers from Elgin County OPP, civilian witnesses and 32 of the migrant workers.

It also reviewed officers’ notes, statements, meeting minutes, audio and video of interview recordings, photos, forensic evidence and police policies.

Workers from Tillsonburg, Ont. were subjected to a DNA testing sweep in connection to a violent sexual assault, even though for many their only similarity to the suspect’s description was skin colour.

Men whose characteristics differed widely from the suspect’s description were asked to submit to a DNA test.

Justicia for Migrant Workers, a group that found and interviewed 44 of the 100 people who voluntarily gave samples, learned that roughly half of those they spoke to were shorter than the specified height of the suspect, and about half were older than 41, when the suspect was said to be in his 20s.

The OPP later arrested a man who didn’t appear to be one of the 100 migrant workers asked to voluntarily provide a DNA sample to police, according to Justicia.

At the time of the review’s announcement, then-OPP commissioner Chris Lewis responded to the complaint, saying, “As an organization, we do not permit our employees to engage in racial profiling.”

A spokesman for the OPP said in 2014 the force would co-operate with the review and that they were confident in their investigative practices.

The OIPRD is responsible for conducting systemic reviews of police practices and following up on individual complaints about police conduct, policy and service issues.

Past systemic reviews looked at how police services handle mental illness among their ranks, and the policing of the G20 Summit in 2010.

https://www.thestar.com/news/crime/2016 ... ludes.html
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