News / Edmonton

'A clear conflict': Edmonton activists call for reset on street check review

Black Lives Matter, Stolen Sisters and Brothers argue researchers do not fit criteria of being independent and unbiased

Bashir Mohamed is a representative of Black Lives Matter Edmonton.

Kevin Tuong / Edmonton Freelance

Bashir Mohamed is a representative of Black Lives Matter Edmonton.

Activists say the Edmonton Police Commission should go back to the drawing board on its street check review, citing concerns of bias.

Black Lives Matter and the Stolen Sisters and Brothers Awareness Group issued a joint statement Wednesday saying the lead third-party reviewer, Curt Griffiths, should be taken off the job because of ties to the Canadian Police Association, and field researcher Josh Murphy should be removed due to “a series of questionable tweets.”

Griffiths, a professor at Simon Fraser University, has received research funding from the Canadian Police Association in the past.

In July, the police commission promised an independent and unbiased third-party review of street checks – the practice of stopping and gathering information from someone not accused of a crime, also referred to as carding – after data was released showing officers disproportionately targeted black and Indigenous Edmontonians.

“This review cannot be independent and unbiased if you picked people who have received funding from them and who have close ties to the police lobby,” Bashir Mohamed with Black Lives Matter told Metro.  

“It’s a clear conflict and raises immediate red flags, and we’re wondering why that wasn’t addressed when they were selecting people.”

Mohamed also raised concerns over Murphy’s tweets, including one from 2012 that reads, “I suppose I should accept the fact that I’m white and should feel guilty about everything.”

The police commission’s acting chair Tim O’Brien said in an e-mail statement that Griffiths was chosen to lead the review based on an evaluation of competencies, cost and timing.

O’Brien said he did not see a conflict of interest.

“The Canadian Police Association is the largest commissioner of police-related research in the country supporting evidence-based policies and it is partly this expertise that makes Dr. Griffiths well suited to his current role,” he wrote. “The Commission has full confidence in the integrity of Dr. Griffiths and his team and their ability to carry out an independent and unbiased review of street check practice and policy in the City of Edmonton.”

The review got underway Dec. 1, and the reviewers are in Edmonton to meet with stakeholders this week.

Mohamed said Black Lives Matter will no longer take part in the consultations because of the group's concerns.

He also questioned why the commission chose researchers from Vancouver, noting Toronto police went to professors at the University of Toronto.

“We have the U of A here, we have a lot of qualified researchers. We have MacEwan, who don’t have ties to the CPA and who understand Edmonton,” Mohamed said.

“It just kind of boggles my mind that we’d shop out of the province.”

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