Chief launches internal probe over 'Project LEARN'
London police Chief Brad Duncan has announced an internal review of how ‘Project LEARN’ was conducted in 2013 and says he is reaching out to concerned groups.
In a statement released Monday, Duncan said he launched the review “in light of concerns raised over the approach to students occupying homes in specific neighbourhoods where continued community problems exist.”
Students say over the last five weeks police have been going door to door asking for personal information like phone numbers, addresses, emails and even their parents’ addresses without reason while also talking about ‘Project LEARN.’
Student Alexander Tashos says “They had a whole sheet and the sheet on it asked [for] your name, your address, your home address, and then as well as this address where we’re living in London.” And if they refused? “We felt that would almost be – that the police would then look at us in a negative light.”
But Duncan says “Oftentimes, the principals who even own the home are not there, of course then it’s very difficult for us to determine, first of all, who’s in charge, and for us to go in and deal with that.”
While police say it’s not illegal to ask for the information, the request has prompted the chief to launch an internal review.
Duncan added that behaviour associated with off-campus student residences – like large gatherings - continue to be an issue, but views on how the problem should be addressed vary widely.
In addition to enforcement, Duncan said he realizes a “wholesome focused community approach that engages all of the involved stakeholders is necessary.”
Following numerous discussions and initiatives in previous years, Duncan plans to meet with representatives of Western University’s student council, administration and emerging leaders.
He says he has also reached out to Councillor Matt Brown to look for opportunities to engage the community, especially those in areas with many student rental properties.
Call for Duncan’s resignation
The statement from the police chief comes a day after an open letter was released by a lawyer and instructor at Western University calling for his resignation.
Susan Toth questions the force’s collection of the personal information about students not accused of any crime and says the targeting of student neighbourhoods is a form of profiling.
In her letter Toth states “The police force is in clear violation of the spirit of section 7 and section 8 of the Charter [of Rights and Freedoms]…As police officers, you should be held to a higher standard of upholding the supreme law of the land. Rather than expect students to invoke their rights, you should not be seeking to violate those rights to begin with.”
She adds the actions taken during ‘Project LEARN’ are “not only counterproductive to public safety and maintaining an important positive relationship between citizens and police, but they are also unethical and in opposition to the spirit, at the very least, of Canadian law, and our citizens' rights and freedoms.”