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York police stop 'naming and shaming' for impaired arrests, at least temporarily

Concerns with data verification cited as reason for abandoning policy that publicly names those charged with alcohol and drug-related criminal driving offences
YRP crime scene police car
Supplied photo/York Regional Police

York Regional Police has mothballed its controversial practice of publishing the name, age and place of residence of drivers charged with alcohol- and drug-related criminal driving offences, at least temporarily.

“Our initiative involving the release of names of people charged with impaired-related offences has been temporarily suspended after we identified a concern in data verification,” Const. Laura Nicolle told NewmarketToday. “We are looking at whether a more automated process could alleviate these concerns or if there is a technology-based solution that could simplify the process."

Since Dec. 3, 2018, York police has issued weekly releases that publicly name and shame drivers caught behind the wheel after allegedly having one too many in an effort to stem the rising tide of impaired drivers on York Region’s roads and the calamitous collisions that can result.

In launching the initiative in December, York Regional Police Chief Eric Jolliffe said “it’s clear something has to change."

“Effective immediately, York Regional Police will name all of the drivers charged with impaired-related criminal driving offences, to further make impaired driving socially unacceptable and so that members of our community can assist with notifying police if these offenders choose to drive while under suspension," the chief said. "Innocent lives are put at risk every day by this irresponsible and criminal behaviour. We are not giving up.”

While it appears the public overwhelmingly supported the local force’s decision, there is scant research to show publishing the names of those charged actually works as a deterrent. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has called on police to abandon the practice, and daily newspapers published editorials critical of naming and shaming individuals who haven't been found guilty in a court of law.

York police first considered this so-called naming-and-shaming policy in early 2017 after a grisly year on the region’s roads in 2016 saw nine people killed by impaired drivers.

The local force issued its last news release on May 14 that named the drivers with impaired-related criminal driving offences. The online archive of those charged in the past five months has been removed from the York police website.

“The releasing of the names is only one of a number of impaired driving awareness campaigns York Regional Police runs,” Nicolle added. “We are not giving up. We are continuing our fight against impaired driving, which includes the recent launch of our summer impaired driving initiative Safe Roads: Your Call.”

Safe Roads: Your Call encourages citizens to call 9-1-1 if they suspect an impaired driver. York police consider these incidents a life-threatening crime in progress and will continue to respond to these calls.

York police said it has made ongoing efforts to stop impaired driving on York Region’s roads through enforcement and education, but the greatest impact in improving road safety comes from the partnership it has with citizens and road users in the region.

More than 5,000 people call 9-1-1 to report impaired driving each year. So far in 2019, more than 1,000 calls to 9-1-1 have helped to safely remove impaired drivers from the region’s roads, which has led to more than 600 impaired-related criminal charges being laid, York police say.

The 9-1-1 calls have come from different sources, including other motorists, pedestrians, drive-through employees, gas station attendants, liquor store employees, neighbours, family and friends calling in to prevent potentially devastating situations, police said.

For more information on the program, contact the York Regional Police Road Safety Bureau at 1-866-876-5423, ext. 7703 or corporate communications at 1-866-876-5423, ext. 2664.

Kim Champion

About the Author: Kim Champion

Kim Champion is a veteran journalist and editor who covers Newmarket and issues that impact York Region.
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