Do the police treat Black and Indigenous people worse than others? Most Ontarians think so

Activists and protesters yell at police in front of Toronto Police Headquarters, they are angry over allegations of police involvement in the death of 29-year-old Regis Korchinski-Paquet, who fell from the 24th-floor balcony of a High Park apartment building on May 30, 2020. A new polls shows respondents think police treat Black and Indigenous people differently than other people.

More than two-thirds of Ontarians believe police treat Black and Indigenous people “worse” than others and 90 per cent want mandatory body cameras for all officers, a new poll has found.

The Campaign Research survey for the Star also revealed opinion on cutting police budgets by 10 per cent was evenly split and that most don’t think officers all need to carry guns.

Campaign Research principal Nick Kouvalis said the findings should be concerning to police forces across the province.

“The major takeaway is the police have a big problem — they have lost the support of the super majority of the public and they need to work hard to get it back,” Kouvalis said Friday.

Campaign Research polled 1,395 people across Ontario on Wednesday and Thursday using Maru Blue’s online panel. It is an opt-in poll, but for comparison purposes, a random sample of this size would have a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

The survey comes against the backdrop of Black Lives Matter protests around the world after the police killing of George Floyd, a Black man, in Minnesota on May 25. Four Minneapolis officers, who have since been fired, have been charged.

Asked if they feel “Black people and/or Indigenous people and/or other people from racialized communities are treated worse by police than other citizens,” 68 per cent of respondents agreed with that statement.

Only 22 per cent disagreed and nine per cent weren’t sure.

“It’s not surprising two-thirds of people believe that, because it’s true,” said Kouvalis, who has worked with Conservative and Liberal candidates across Canada and managed the winning Toronto mayoral campaigns of John Tory and Rob Ford.

“Brown, Black, and Indigenous people know when they meet a police officer that they could have a problem because the officer has preconceived notions about them,” he said.

The poll found 51 per cent agreed that “it is only a minority of police officers who engage in racist behaviour” while 35 per cent said “this is a widespread problem that has infected police culture.”

Similarly, 61 per cent said “it is workable to have a segment of our police officers who are not armed and can deal with appropriate calls where a firearm is not required.”

About one-quarter — 26 per cent — disagreed and 13 per cent weren’t sure.


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