Police forces urged to collect data on 'racial profiling'

Police forces urged to collect data on 'racial profiling' Source: SBS

SBS World News Radio: A new report has found Australian police forces must introduce data collection concerning what's known as "racial profiling", or risk further alienating ethnic communities. 

In Victoria, police claim they have "zero tolerence" for racial profiling, but have no method of accurately measuring whether the practice still takes place.

Nineteen year-old law student Taj Mohamed is of Sudanese origin and regularly commutes on Melbourne's busy rail system.

Despite having no criminal record, Mr Mohamed says he is regularly stopped and questioned by police.

"There's dozens of people catching the train - why would they pick me out of a bunch of people catching a train?"

Mr Mohamed says that scrutiny leads to feelings of alienation.

"It doesn't make me feel Australian because the Australians are not being treated the way I'm being treated so there's obviously this sense of feeling unwelcome."

Lawyer and researcher Tamar Hopkins led a report by Australian academics exploring world's-best-practice for monitoring and preventing racial profiling by police.

Ms Hopkins says they found Australian authorities lagging significantly behind their international counterparts.

"People are being stopped on the basis of their ethnicity despite the existence of Victoria Police policy banning profiling, so we know this is a very common practice that's occurring now but because there is no data we can't tell you how prevalent this is."

Ms Hopkins met representatives from Victoria Police to reinforce her report's key recommendation for "robust racial profiling monitoring, capable of capturing information relevant to demographics, outcomes and reasons for police intervention."

She says she was encouraged to directly approach the Commissioner of Victoria Police with the findings.

Her co-author, sociologist Dr Clare Land, says it's impossible to improve the current less-than-perfect situation without collecting relevant data.

"We are wanting to introduce data monitoring so the police can reassure themselves and affected communities that they are moving in the right direction."

Victoria Police has declined to be interviewed on the issue, but released a statement saying it has "zero tolerance" for racial profiling, and that members are trained to police in response to a person's behaviour, not the colour of their skin.



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