Crit­ics urge cops to axe ‘card­ing ’

Cite anal­y­sis that prac­tice is harm­ful

The Intelligencer (Belleville) - - NATIONAL NEWS - COLIN PERKEL

Toronto’s po­lice ser­vices board is be­ing urged to im­ple­ment an out­right ban on card­ing — ran­dom po­lice checks of peo­ple on the street — in light of a re­port that con­cludes the prac­tice does far more harm than good.

Card­ing crit­ics plan to make their views known when the board meets Thurs­day to dis­cuss pub­lic aware­ness of a new provin­cial rule that pro­hibits the prac­tice ex­cept in cer­tain cir­cum­stances. They ar­gue it’s not enough that the board last month po­litely re­ceived the study it com­mis­sioned by two crim­i­nol­ogy pro­fes­sors.

“You should not waste any time think­ing about the ‘pub­lic aware­ness’ of that reg­u­la­tion,” lawyer Peter Rosen­thal said in a let­ter this week to the board. “In­stead, you should re­fo­cus your at­ten­tion on the re­port pre­sented to you at your last meet­ing.”

In their anal­y­sis, Univer­sity of Toronto pro­fes­sors An­thony Doob and Rose­mary Gart­ner ex­am­ine cred­i­ble re­search around street stops to look at their broader im­pact. Ul­ti­mately, they con­clude, the detri­men­tal ef­fects of card­ing out­weigh its use­ful­ness as a crime­fight­ing tool.

“One can­not con­clude that some­thing is ef­fec­tive just be­cause as­ser­tions are made that it is,” Doob and Gart­ner write. “It is quite clear to us that it is easy to ex­ag­ger­ate the use­ful­ness of these stops, and hard to find data that sup­ports the use­ful­ness of con­tin­u­ing to carry them out.”

Street checks started com­ing un­der in­tense scru­tiny sev­eral years ago amid data show­ing of­fi­cers were dis­pro­por­tion­ately stop­ping black and other racial­ized peo­ple. For their part, po­lice ar­gued they sim­ply go where the crime is, and that stop­ping peo­ple os­ten­si­bly at ran­dom, ask­ing for iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, and record­ing the in­for­ma­tion is use­ful.

The is­sue, how­ever, prompted the provin­cial gov­ern­ment to en­act a reg­u­la­tion this year that pur­ports to ban race-based stops — ex­cept un­der cer­tain con­di­tions. Those con­di­tions in­clude cases in which an of­fi­cer is look­ing for a par­tic­u­lar in­di­vid­ual or in­ves­ti­gat­ing a spe­cific crime.

Of­fi­cers must also ex­plain why they want iden­ti­fy­ing in­for­ma­tion, tell peo­ple they can refuse the re­quest, and give a re­ceipt with their names and badge num­bers, the reg­u­la­tion stip­u­lates. Those re­quire­ments have ex­cep­tions, too, such as if meet­ing them could hurt an in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Last month, the Com­mu­nity Safety Min­istry asked for feed­back on ma­te­ri­als the gov­ern­ment had de­vel­oped to help peo­ple un­der­stand the new rule. That re­quest is on the agenda for Thurs­day’s board meet­ing.

Jack Gem­mell, with the Law Union of On­tario, said Wed­nes­day he plans to tell the board that one min­istry poster is un­in­for­ma­tive and reads like the “fine print in a mort­gage.”

In ad­di­tion, Gem­mell and other crit­ics say the provin­cial reg­u­la­tion has huge loop­holes. They want the board to drive a stake through card­ing’s heart — es­pe­cially given re­search that the prac­tice of “stop, ques­tion, and frisk” is largely in­ef­fec­tive in cut­ting street crime, and that even a per­cep­tion of racial pro­fil­ing un­der­mines com­mu­nity sup­port for po­lice.

In ac­cept­ing the Doob and Gart­ner re­port last month, the board said its card­ing pol­icy would “evolve over time” and that the re­search would “as­sist it in as­sess­ing the pol­icy.”

How­ever, Rosen­thal said the re­searchers have al­ready found such poli­cies want­ing — a mes­sage he hopes to drive home Thurs­day dur­ing the five min­utes he and oth­ers are given for oral sub­mis­sions.

“The only rea­son­able re­sponse to the Doob-Gart­ner re­port is to use their re­search as the ba­sis for adopt­ing a pol­icy that the Toronto po­lice ser­vice will no longer en­gage in card­ing,” Rosen­thal said.

“If card­ing is not com­pletely stopped, there will be many ad­di­tional harms to po­lice-com­mu­nity re­la­tions, many more ex­penses in car­ry­ing out and reg­u­lat­ing the prac­tice, con­tin­ued de­bate, and a num­ber of law­suits.”


A po­lice car ar­rives at a Toronto court­house. Toronto’s po­lice ser­vices board is be­ing urged to im­ple­ment an out­right ban on card­ing — ran­dom po­lice checks of peo­ple on the street. Card­ing crit­ics plan to make their views known when the board meets Thurs­day.

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