Ottawa’s marginalized, racialized populations overwhelmingly distrust police: uOttawa study

Police car making traffic stop
A majority of marginalized and racialized citizens in the City of Ottawa are distrustful of police to the point where avoidance is the best solution, according to research from the University of Ottawa.

Researchers from the Faculty of Social Sciences collected and analyzed 251 accounts of encounters between residents from disproportionately policed communities and law enforcement in Ottawa, with the resulting data painting a grim picture of the negative impacts policing has on marginalized communities: Only 21.4 % of those who answered indicated they trust the police.

“Over the last decade, a number of incidents led to increased concerns about policing in this city,” explains co-author Chris Bruckert, a Full Professor in the Department of Criminology. “Community members regularly share stories of difficult interactions between residents and the police. Our research team decided to work with data collectors across the city to document these experiences.”

The data showed very low levels of trust – with just 2.1 % of those struggling financially having any trust for law enforcement – and overall negative opinions of the police. They described racist, rude, or insulting comments, denounced what they see as forms of social or racial profiling, and reported heightened anxiety and instances of physical harm resulting from these encounters, which are best avoided.

“One finding that is particularly concerning is that participants stated that these encounters decreased their sense of safety and security. We asked participants how the encounter impacted them and 49.2 % of those who answered said they felt less safe, and only 5.8 % said they felt safer after the interaction. Our findings make it clear that for many people in our city, police don’t contribute to safety; they appear to do the opposite,” says David Moffette, co-author and Associate Professor in the Department of Criminology.

'Troubling Encounters: Ottawa Residents' Experiences of Policing' was initiated and conducted by David Moffette, Sadia Jama, Lindsay Snow and Chris Bruckert as part of the research team Experiences of Encounters with the Police in Ottawa.

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