Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Strip searches are inefficient, unnecessary and target racial Canadians

With the Toronto Police Service’s release of race-based data on strip searches as part of its race- and identity-based data collection strategy, we can clearly see who chooses to submit to strip searches.

We now know that, by 2020 – even though black people make up about 10 percent of the city’s population – one in three people who have been stripped will be black. Nearly a third of all indigenous people arrested were searched.

Strip search not only evokes racial and sexual trauma, it is also ineffective. It’s finally time to talk about ending this oppressive police practice.

Strip searches are traumatic

For the past 20 years, courts and watchdog agencies have been trying to regulate the way police conduct strip searches, with the goal of reducing the overall number of strip searches they conduct.

In his landmark case on strip searches, R. v. Golden (2001), the Supreme Court of Canada defined strip searches as a separate type of “personal search,” as opposed to general searches, searches, or cavity searches. The court defined the poaching as “the removal or rearrangement of some or all of a person’s clothing to allow a visual inspection of a person’s private areas, namely genitals, buttocks, breasts … or underwear. ”

In the Golden case, the court also recognized the basic intrusiveness of strip searches. They “represent a significant invasion of privacy” and are often a “humiliating, degrading and traumatic experience.” Racist people, as well as women, may experience that their stripped-down searches are related to a sexual assault. Women who have been imprisoned also regard their strip searches as sexual assault.

The Supreme Court also acknowledged that black and indigenous peoples are suffering undue damage due to the racial trauma associated with a strip search. In the absence of statistics, the majority of Supreme Court justices in the Golden Case concluded that blacks and natives “are likely to represent an excessive number of those arrested by the police and subjected to personal searches, including strip searches.”

According to law professor David Tanovich, the court’s endorsement of this fact established an anti-racism principle in the interpretation of the Bill of Rights and Freedoms.

A Person Holds Up A Sign With Black Lives Matter Outside The Toronto Police Headquarters.
Protesters are taking part in a defundering police rally in front of the Toronto Police Department headquarters in July 2020.

Poaching searches and systemic racism

The Toronto Police Service’s race-based data collection’s focus on strip searches is due to efforts by provincial watchdog agencies and lawmakers to bring police in Ontario into line with the law.

In its 2019 report, “Breaking the Golden Rule: A Review of Police Strip Searches in Ontario,” the Ontario Independent Police Review Director, an independent police watchdog, found that the police in Ontario are conducting “too many” unjustified and illegal strip searches. .

Although the report does not delve into issues of systemic racism, the watchdog recommended that police services collect race-based data on strip searches as part of a broader police data collection project mandated by the province’s 2017 Anti-Racism Act.

Why are strip searches necessary?

The justification that supposedly trumps the rights of individuals is that poaching is necessary. But are they?

Under current law, an officer may search for weapons, evidence, or anything that may cause injury and assist in a person’s escape.

According to the Toronto Police Department’s search procedures, police officers are required to conduct a search before considering a strip search. The vast majority of items are retrieved during these searches.

In addition, during the booking process, the police regularly confiscate items such as shoelaces and belts. The courts have criticized police forces in Ontario – York region and Quinte West – for seizing braces and rope bites as a routine procedure.

A Toronto Police Officer Is Parked In The Middle Of A Road.
Toronto police are attending the scene of a collision.
THE CANADIAN PRESS / Christopher Katsarov

The Breaking the Golden Rule report noted that Toronto police seized the bras of a third of the women who arrested them from 2016 to 2019. The forced removal of these items is a poaching, and routine poaching is not justified by law.

Considering the dragnet to which police officers arrest people subject, especially those who are brought into police custody, it is not surprising that there is not much left for them to find through a strip search.

Items rarely found

In May 2014, the then-Toronto police chief reported to the Police Services Board that only two percent of strip and cavity searches found any items, and only a fraction of those objects found posed a risk.

Unfortunately, the Toronto Police Service does not provide descriptions of these items in the current race-based strip search dataset, its open data portal, or its annual reports to the Toronto Police Service Board.

Given that the police rarely discover dangerous items, is it really worthwhile to subject numerous people to searches that are destructive, violate constitutional rights and traumatize the Black and Indigenous people who are excessively searched? It’s time to end the exercise.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Deskhttps://nationworldnews.com
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