Starting this Wednesday, Montrealers who are stopped by police, or who have been stopped in the past, can self-report their experience via an online interactive map.
The goal is to reflect a more accurate account of police stops in the city, using the open-data research initiative to collect information about the nature of the stops directly from citizens’ testimonials.
A number of persons are invited to record “any experience where a police officer stopped you and asked you to identify yourself or show them your ID, asked you what you were doing or where you were going, without that incident leading to any kind of sanctions,” said the project’s lead researcher, Carolyn Côté-Lussier.
The data on the map will chart when and where a stop happened. It will also give people the option to enter information about themselves — with full anonymity — such as their age group, gender, racial or ethnic identity and sexual orientation.
People will also be prompted to give the reason they think they were stopped and whether they think it was justified.
The project was launched by a multidisciplinary research team from the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS), McGill University, Concordia University College London.
Stopmtl.ca, which had 82 stops recorded as of noon at the time of writing, will allow researchers to map out the social and physical distribution of police stops in Montreal, something Côté-Lussier says is missing from data gathered and shared by the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM.)
She says the SPVM only record five to 20 per cent of the stops they make. The force has recently implemented a policy to ensure street checks be based on observable facts and not “discriminatory motives,” but some advocates say that still won’t end racial profiling.
The project relies on 100 per cent data transparency and shows a running count of how many stops have been self-recorded in the city to date, with a function to view data in different boroughs to pinpoint hot-spots.
Côté-Lussier, who is an assistant professor at the INRS and a researcher at the International Centre for Comparative Criminology, says the project was partly inspired by a 2019 independently-produced SPVM report suggesting that police stops disproportionately affected certain groups — primarily young adults in Black, Indigenous and Arab communities.
The research will focus on the public’s reaction toward crime and safety issues, and will look at this data in terms of how it affects health, behaviour and quality of life for Montrealers.
Researchers will produce a report on the project and the validity of the data in February 2022.