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Comparative Politics

B10(b) - Police Profiling or Discrimination?

Date: Jun 5 | Time: 10:30am to 12:00pm | Location: SWING 106

Chair/Président/Présidente : Pascale Dufour (Université de Montréal)

Discussant/Commentateur/Commentatrice : Pascale Dufour (Université de Montréal)


Session Abstract: This panel analyzes different types of police profiling practices and their political consequences. Police profiling is defined as when police intervene (or not) based not on what an individual or group does but on who they are, that is the real or presumed identity of the individual or group. The panel examines profiling based on racial, social, or political reasons even when the individual or group has not committed a wrongdoing. It also examines, when these individuals and groups have committed a wrongdoing, how they are more quickly and harshly repressed than other groups that engage in the same acts or omissions but to whom the police do not pay as close attention. In both cases the problem highlights judicial, social, and political questions. The panel examines these issues with a lens toward intersectionality. Each presenter analyzes a different form of profiling and crosses it with another form of profiling, such as racial and social profiling, or racial and sexual profiling.


The Policing and Criminalization of Indigenous Homeless People in Val d’Or, Quebec: A Case of Social and Racial profiling: Marie-Eve Sylvestre (Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa), Céline Bellot (School of Social Work, Université de Montréal)
Abstract: In the last decade, the number of homeless people has consistently increased in the northern city of Val d’Or and the question of the regulation of public spaces, in particular in the downtown core, has come to the forefront. As social and health services are largely insufficient and not enough consolidated to respond to the high and complex psychosocial needs of the homeless population, the police are too often asked to be the first (and only) responders to deal with the tensions and problems related to the presence of homeless people, in particular with respect to public drinking and intoxication. This paper focuses on the policing and criminalization of homeless people in Val d’Or. Specifically, it documents the use of ticketing against homeless people and shows that Indigenous homeless people are disproportionately targeted by the police, are heavily ticketed, and often ended up incarcerated for default payment of fines. Based on our findings, we suggest that there are several indicators of profiling and systemic discrimination against Indigenous homeless individuals in Val d’Or and that those both intersect with race and social status.


Police Profiling Based on Social Status and Age: The Case of the Pibe Chorro in Argentina : Michelle Bonner (University of Victoria)
Abstract: Crime is a leading public policy concern of citizens in many countries in Latin America, including Argentina. Certainly, homicide and victimization rates are very high in some countries and areas of the region. Yet, regardless of the statistics and contrary to criminological research, the answer demanded by the public, the media, and the government almost always involves more police on the street, especially in poorer areas of major cities. In Argentina, this demand comes despite wide public knowledge of police violence, corruption, and involvement in crime. In these economically poorer communities, police particularly profile young boys as criminals, the pibe chorro (young thieves). In many cases police subject these young boys to harassment, arbitrary arrest, torture, disappearances and arbitrary killings, as well as coercing them into crime. This paper analyzes how the intersection of class and age (as well as gender and race) shape police profiling in the emblematic case of Luciano Arruga. In 2009, 16-year-old Arruga disappeared. He had last been with the police. Only after the tenacious work of his sister and human rights organizations was his body found in 2014. Drawing on the methodological approach of Patricia Hill Collins and Sirma Bilge (2016) the paper examines the structural, cultural, and interpersonal dimensions of police profiling that made this case, and many other like it possible. It draws on an extensive range of media and human rights reports as well as field research conducted between 2006-2015.


From Political to Social Profiling: The Montreal Police Department’s GAMMA Project: Pascal Dominique-Légault (Université Laval)
Abstract: This contribution aims to present the results of a qualitative single case study conducted on the Montreal Police Department’s GAMMA project (« Guet des activités et des mouvements marginaux et anarchistes ») - whose existence came to light in July 2011. Literally meaning, in French, « the surveillance of marginal and anarchist movements and their activities », the structure was integrated to the department’s organized crime division. Our study shows how police authorities justified the creation and dissolution of the surveillance project between 2010 and 2011. Adopting an interactionist and intersectional approach, we ponder at how political and social profiling meet by analysing internal documents, which circulated at the top of the chain of command, and were obtained by mobilizing provincial access to information (ATI) provisions. Analysis shows (1) how ideological support for both forms of political and social profiling were present at the time of GAMMA’s establishment, but also (2) how a type of police profiling (political profiling) was faded (partially because of media scrutiny) and channeled to favour another one: a social profiling founded on the « student social condition ». Our analysis suggests the importance of looking upstream at the operational decisions which justify mobilizing additional personnel (investigation, intelligence, surveillance staff, etc.), oftentimes made before protests and police interventions on the ground. We conceptualize these operational decisions as forms of political and social profiling as they may also come to treat differently on the basis of prohibited grounds of discrimination.


Sexual Profiling and Police Violence Against Women: A Canadian Story: Francis Dupuis-Déri (Université du Québec à Montréal)
Abstract: Although women in Canada are not the primary target of police violence, is it none the less possible to talk about 'sexual profiling'? Drawing upon a data base of more than 800 texts (from Canadian media) dealing with police violence against women, this paper aims to present empirical information and offer theoretical tools to develop the concept of 'sexual profiling'.