Ontario police are no longer releasing the genders of crime victims or suspects
In an effort to be more progressive, Ontario Provincial Police have decided to refrain from identifying the genders of crime suspects or victims in their public reports moving forward.
"When we were reviewing our standard operating procedures, we realized we were including information that was not permissible for us to release," said OPP spokesperson Sgt. Carolle Dionne to the CBC in a piece published Monday.
"It doesn't matter if it was a male or a female who was an impaired driver or speeding down the highway, what matters is that we pulled them over and laid a charge."
The OPP will continue to keep records of gender for statistical purposes, according to Dionne, but will no longer identify people as men or women in media releases.
"We will now say 'the individual' or 'the accused,' and not use gender-specific pronouns," explained Dionne. "In the case of a suspect where we need to be more specific, we will say 'appears to be a female' or 'appears to be a male.'"
The only impact of police not releasing the gender of victims and those charged with crimes is to hide men's violence against women. This is terrible practice, OPP https://t.co/DcjpMQOALj— Lauren Dobson-Hughes (@ldobsonhughes) September 23, 2019
Information that could help police solve crimes, such as the names, ages and hometowns of the accused, will still be released publicly.
The OPP says the move was prompted by a review of the Police Services Act, the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
Ontario's privacy commissioner says that Ontario's freedom of information laws do not prohibit police from disclosing the genders of anyone, but does concede that parts of the Ontario Human Rights Code may apply in this situation.
"There may also be a reluctance to release information that is not required to identify any individual but that an individual may feel is private and personal," said Privacy Commissioner Brian Beamish to the CBC.
Does this only apply to when the accused is already in custody?! I can understand why that would be a good idea. But if the accused is still on the prowl...— jingle bells (@SaraBee123) September 23, 2019
Ontario residents aren't universally impressed by the move. If Twitter reaction is any indication, they're more confused or annoyed than anything.
It's important, then, to note that individual police forces within Ontario do not have to comply with the OPP's decision. The prohibition of gender in media releases applies only to the provincial police force.
The Toronto Police Service, for instance, has not announced plans to stop naming the genders of people who are accused of crimes or those who are victims of crimes.
As far as Beamish knows, "we are not aware of other police services in Ontario that employ [a gender] policy."
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