Bias-Neutral Policing: A Police Perspective on the Intersection of Racial Profiling with Modern-Day Policing and the Laws That Govern

AuthorGary V Melanson
Bias-Neutral Policing
A Police Perspective on the Intersection of
Racial Prof‌iling with Modern-Day Policing
and the Laws That Govern
Gary v mELanson
This chapter provides a police perspective to and will examine how bias-
neutral policing practices can guide police in their interactions with cit-
izens and ground their stance on interactions with the public. The chapter
will also review how, in law, racial prof‌iling has intersected with policing
in three key areas: the criminal law, the Ontario Human Rights Code, and
police regulation (including during street checks) and police discipline.
Finally, a discussion will also take place regarding possible avenues where
solutions and/or progress may be found in the areas of police oversight,
education, and dat a analysis.
How do the police approach bias-neutral policing?1 The f‌irst step is a clear
recognition and acceptance that it exists and that steps must be taken
eliminate it, in order to properly serve our communities.
The police are the public and the public are t he police; the police being only
members of the public who are paid to give f ull time attention to duties
which are incumbent on ever y citizen in the interests of commun ity wel-
fare and existence — Sir Robe rt Peel2
* Gary V Melanson i s the senior director of Legal S ervices and Risk Man agement, Legal
Services Br anch, Waterloo Regional Police Serv ice.
1 Sometimes referred to as “ bias-free policing ” or “impartial polici ng.”
2 While attributed to Sir Rober t Peel, this quote and his “Nine Pri nciples of Policing,”
dating back to the 182 0s, are likely a summar y or paraphrasing of his sp eeches and
Gary V Melans on
In order for our society to be a safe and vibrant place to live, we need to
remember that community relations and their understanding of the role of
the police are keys to that goal and a successful policing model. Sir Robert
Peel’s oft-quoted and -taught statement on policing by community consent
has formed the backbone of Canadian policing philosophy. Several com-
mon law countries’ policing models, including Canada, also rely upon Sir
Robert Peel’s “Nine Principles of Policing” that include the following:
5. To seek and preserve public favour, not by panderin g to public opinion,
but by constant ly demonstrat ing absolutely imparti al service to la w, in complete
independence of policy, and without regard to t he justice or injustice of the
substance of individua l laws, by ready of‌fering of ind ividual serv ice and
friendship to all members of the public w ithout regard to their wealth or so-
cial standing , by ready exercise of courtesy and friendly good hu mour; and
by ready of‌fering of indiv idual sacrif‌ice in protecting and preser ving life.3
Without getting into the intricacies or implications of the above
principle (as it relates to divorcing the role of the police from a policy or
consequential analysis of the laws they are asked to maintain), the key
concept that f‌lows from this principle is the “absolute impartial service
to law.” This raises and leads directly into the concept of bias-neutral
policing as an underlying edict to modern-day policing. However, the
way this bias-neutral policing is practically employed is far from simple
or free from confusion for the police or the public — especially when
systemic pressures, both internal and external, come into play. With
that confusion, or where the police stray away from those principles, is
often where racial prof‌iling (actual or perceived) will intersect with the
law under which police operate: the criminal law, human rights law, and
the Police Serv ices Act. The tests and consequences of racial prof‌iling are
substantively and procedurally dif‌ferent under each of these areas of law
but common threads include that, very often, f‌indings of racial prof‌iling
are made indirectly, sometimes assumptively, and may arise out of “up-
stream”4 systemic biases.
other communications (Su san A Lentz & Robert H Chaire s, “The Invention of Peel’s
Principles: A Study of Polic ing ‘Textbook’ History ” (2007) 35:1 Journal of Crim inal
Justi ce 69.
3 See “Principles of Good Policin g,” online: The Institute for the St udy of Civil Society [Em-
phasis added].
4 Systemic biases t hat originate in other area s of society or within t he government system
(e.g., poverty-bas ed) that only become apparent or an issue t hrough an interaction
with polic e.

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