New data shows that about 20 per cent of people stopped in police ‘street checks’ in Halifax are black, despite black people making up less than four per cent of the city’s population.

Some say the statistics are evidence of racial profiling while the deputy police chief believes there may be other explanations.

Preliminary data released as the result of a Freedom of Information Request shows that 20 per cent of individuals checked between 2012 and 2016 were black (8,838), 70 per cent were white and 10 per cent were another race or of unknown race. Data for the years 2005 to 2011 also shows over-representation of blacks relative to their proportion of the population.

During the last Census (2006), only 7.5 per cent of Halifax residents identified as a visible minority. Half of those were black.

Michael Earle, a black Haligonian, said he’s not surprised by the numbers and sees them as evidence of racial profiling.

“I’ve been like questioned and looked at differently before,” he said.

Halifax Board of Police Commissioners held a special meeting Monday to discuss the statistics.

Commissioner Sylvia Parris, who is black, said police ought to consider a “pause” on street checks.

Deputy Police Chief Bill Moore said police are willing to consider changing any policy that “contributes to that disproportionality,” but he does not accept that the statistics are clear evidence of bias.

Before drawing any conclusion, Moore said police should look into whether there is a relationship between demographic data and areas that have higher crime rates, adding “we’re committed to looking into this.”

Moore said police checks are conducted “when an officer feels there is some level of suspicion or something going on,” and that they then record names, locations and times of day in their computers. In terms of what constitutes "suspicion," he gave the example of a person in an industrial park late at night.

Moore said the checks are not “random” and are that the force’s policy requires that “officers must be looking to either further intelligence or further an investigation.”

New ‘carding’ rules in Ontario

Activists in Ontario have been pushing to end street checks -- sometimes called carding -- after data there showed black people are stopped at disproportionate rates.

Instead, the province updated its regulations as of Jan. 1, making it illegal for police to use race as a reason to conduct a street check.

Police in Ontario must also now offer written records of all interactions with the public that include names and badge numbers, along with information on how to contact the province’s Independent Police Review Director.

Police in Ontario must also tell members of the public that they are not required to speak to police.

Ontario has also committed to re-training all officers about racism, bias awareness and discrimination.

With a report from CTV Atlantic’s Alan April