Peel po­lice de­lay re­lease of race data on street checks

Star filed free­dom of in­for­ma­tion re­quest June 16

Toronto Star - - GTA - SAN GRE­WAL UR­BAN AF­FAIRS RE­PORTER

Two months af­ter a dead­line to pro­duce race and eth­nic­ity data for peo­ple stopped by Peel po­lice in 159,303 street checks — a prac­tice known in Toronto as carding — the force has not pro­duced the in­for­ma­tion re­quested un­der ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion laws.

The re­quest was filed on June 16, as public con­tro­versy over carding and street checks mounted.

But when the in­for­ma­tion was re­leased in Au­gust, re­veal­ing Peel po­lice had con­ducted 159,303 street checks from 2009 to 2014, the race and eth­nic­ity of the peo­ple stopped in checks was not in­cluded.

“The race data is ab­so­lutely crit­i­cal . . . (in) our push to elim­i­nate carding.” HOWARD MOR­TON TORONTO LAWYER

“The race data is ab­so­lutely crit­i­cal,” said Howard Mor­ton, a Toronto lawyer and mem­ber of the Law Union of On­tario, an in­flu­en­tial le­gal group that has ad­vo­cated for elim­i­nat­ing carding and street checks, al­leg­ing the prac­tice vi­o­lates cit­i­zens’ Char­ter rights.

“It was the Star data on race and eth­nic­ity that gave us the am­mu­ni­tion that al­lowed us to launch the law­suit (a Su­pe­rior Court law­suit against the Toronto Po­lice Ser­vices Board and the po­lice ser­vice), our sub­mis­sions (to the Toronto po­lice board) and our push to elim­i­nate carding.”

Mor­ton said ob­tain­ing race data from Peel promptly is im­por­tant be­cause the “is­sue is very alive in Peel right now. I am speak­ing at a Peel Po­lice Ser­vices Board meet­ing on Sept. 25, where the is­sue of street checks will be ad­dressed. It will be crit­i­cal to have this data be­fore the meet­ing.”

Af­ter the ini­tial re­lease in Au­gust with­out the race-eth­nic­ity in­for­ma­tion, the force agreed to pro­vide the miss­ing data. On Aug. 27, it said the in­for­ma­tion would be com­piled that week. On Mon­day of this week, with the in­for­ma­tion still not forth­com­ing, the Star was told that a “de­ci­sion” would be made by Sept. 22.

The Star’s orig­i­nal re­quest was for data recorded on the force’s streetcheck cards, known as PRP 17 cards. The cards, which iden­tify each per­son stopped, in­clude a cat­e­gory for skin com­plex­ion, with check­boxes next to the de­scrip­tions al­bino, dark, dis­col­oration, light/fair and medium.

Next to the “Race” cat­e­gory are check­boxes for op­tions in­clud­ing Abo­rig­i­nal, Asian, Black, South Asian, Latin Amer­i­can, Mid­dle Eastern, Mul­ti­ple and White.

The prac­tice of street checks has be­come highly con­tro­ver­sial. Mem­bers of racial­ized mi­nor­ity groups point to Toronto po­lice data that shows they have been dis­pro­por­tion­ately tar­geted in ran­dom stops. Af­ter Brampton MPP Jag­meet Singh, the NDP deputy leader, rose in Queen’s Park early this sum­mer to urge the elim­i­na­tion of carding and street checks, the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment in­stead pledged to reg­u­late the prac­tice. In a se­ries of public con­sul­ta­tions, in­clud­ing meet­ings in Brampton and Toronto, Yasir Naqvi, On­tario’s Min­is­ter of Com­mu­nity Safety and Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices, was con­fronted by dozens of an­gry res­i­dents who told him the gov­ern­ment can’t reg­u­late a prac­tice that is un­con­sti­tu­tional.

Crit­ics have pointed out that po­lice forces have no con­sis­tent pol­icy on the is­sue. Toronto po­lice con­ducted 400,000 carding stops in 2012, claim­ing it was an ef­fec­tive crime-fight­ing tool. If that’s truly the case, crit­ics ar­gue, why did that drop to only 11,000 stops two years later, amid scant ev­i­dence that it helps solve crimes?

In June, Mayor John Tory waf­fled on the is­sue, call­ing for an out­right elim­i­na­tion of carding af­ter pre­vi­ously call­ing the prac­tice a le­git­i­mate tool to help fight crime.

SAN GRE­WAL/TORONTO STAR

Com­mu­nity Safety and Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices Min­is­ter Yasir Naqvi met with Brampton res­i­dents to talk about street checks last month.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.