MONTREAL -- Montrealers can self-report their police stop encounters through an interactive map on STOPMTL.ca, as part of a research project’s efforts to gain more data on police stops in the city, it was announced Wednesday.

Users are not only able to report police stop encounters immediately after they’ve happened, but past encounters as well, going back decades. Users as young as 15 can fill out an anonymous form indicating the context of the stop and where it took place, as well as their age, gender and ethnicity, among other details.

“We want to get a better picture of the police-citizen relationship, because it is an important social issue,” said Carolyn Côté-Lussier in a press release, the project’s lead researcher and a professor of urban studies at the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS).

The project is a response to reports of racial and social profiling by the SPVM; in 2019, an independent report found that Indigenous and Black people are four to five times more likely to be stopped by police than white people in Montreal, and that Arab people are twice as likely.

Further, just Wednesday it was announced that Mamadi Camara, a Montrealer who was wrongfully arrested and detained for six days in January, is suing the police for $1.2 million on accusations of racial profiling.

Only five to 20 per cent of police stops are recorded by the SPVM, according to the INRS, so the website is intended to gain a more accurate understanding of police-citizen interactions.

When community organizations make claims regarding police stops, they are not always taken seriously because of a lack of data, said Côté-Lussier.

"This is a need that has been expressed repeatedly by community organizations since the 1980s," she said.

Fo Niemi, executive director of the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR), told CTV that the project will make a significant contribution to evidence-based advocacy in the city.

“It will provide us with quantitative data of how many people are stopped, who is stopped, and more importantly where they’re stopped. Because the ‘where’ will help us understand where there’s disproportionate targeting of people, particularly people of colour.”

The CRARR is a Montreal civil rights organization and one of several community groups supporting the project.

While promoting the website, Côté-Lussier told CTV the team is targeting "boroughs where most stops occur and occur in a disproportionate manner compared to the crime rate, based on the latest SPVM data." 

These areas include the Sud-Ouest (Saint-Paul, Petite Bourgogne, Pointe-Saint-Charles, Saint-Henri, Ville Émard), Côte-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, Outremont, Ahuntsic, St-Michel, Montreal North, Saint-Laurent, Ville-Marie, Île Notre-Dame, Île-Saint-Hélène, the Plateau-Mont-Royal, and the Old Port. 

A team of researchers from the INRS, McGill University, Concordia University and University College London collaborated in creating the project and launching the website. The team says the project will be open access, meaning its data will be accessible to the general public.

According to the press release, this data will contribute to ongoing studies on the impact of police interaction and crime on mental health and quality of life.

POLICE 'NOT AWARE OF THE SCIENCTIFIC BASIS'

In an email, Montreal police spokesperson Anik de Repentigny said the force is “not aware of the scientific basis for the development of this interactive map. Therefore, we are not in a position to comment on it.”

De Repentigny added that the police service uses computerized forms developed alongside university researchers Victor Armony, Mariam Hassaoui and Massimiliano Mulone and according to the recommendations in an August 2019 report into racial profiling and street checks.

She added that the Montreal police official policy on police checks is “evolving” and has been “officially in effect since March 1.”

De Repentigny also said that the allegation that only 5 to 20 per cent of police stops are recorded by the SPVM is based on stops that occurred between 2001 and 2007, adding that researchers say "it is extremely difficult to project these estimates” onto contemporary police practices.

“We accept all the conclusions of the Armony-Hassaoui-Mulone report. This is why we have mandated them to continue their research in order to document the stops in a scientific manner,” she said. 

- With files from CTV News Montreal's Matt Gilmour