More than 100 people attended ‘Without Suspicion – Measuring racial profiling in Victoria’ – a November public forum at Melbourne University. At the forum affected communities and expert academics called on Victoria Police to take urgent steps to measure the extent of racially discriminatory policing.
People of colour are more likely to be stopped by police in Victoria, despite being under-represented in the crime statistics, but police are currently not required to record or report on the ethnicity of the people they stop – an essential measure to track racial profiling.
The forum was the first public presentation by an expert working group of academics and lawyers who are examining international best practice for ethnicity data-collection by police – with recommendations for a Victorian model due for publication early in 2017.
Speakers on the panel included lawyer and community leader Kot Monoah and community activist and applicant in the landmark Haile-Michael Federal Court racial discrimination case, Maki Issa. Expert Working Group researchers Tamar Hopkins and Dr Vicki Sentas (UNSW) covered the drivers and trends in racialised policing and the importance of gathering and publicly reporting on police stop data to track and respond to this.
“To tackle this problem, we have to have a mechanism to measure its extent. In order to meaningfully track and tackle the extent of racial profiling, Victoria Police must take the essential step of gathering and reporting on data about the ethnicity of people stopped by police,” said Police Stop Data researcher, Tamar Hopkins.
“Gathering and publicly reporting on data about the race or ethnicity of those targeted for stops by police is already in practice in a number of other jurisdictions, including in the UK and Canada. It is an essential accountability measure, and given the history of racial profiling by police in Victoria and the impact of this on individuals and communities, it is vital that now we implement this here.”
The forum included a panel discussion and interactive Q&A about the experiences and impacts of racial profiling on individuals and communities, trends in racialised policing and options for Victoria to gather and monitor ethnicity data for all police stops statewide.
Panellists strongly urged Victoria Police to roll out statewide stop and search receipting, and to urgently introduce simple measures to gather and report on ethnicity data.