Ford should bring back street checks

Kingston Whig-Standard - - OPINION - — Post­media News

The new year was less than a week old Sun­day when bul­lets were blaz­ing again in Toronto, in broad day­light, this time in an area pop­u­larly known as the Beaches, or the Beach.

It’s a mir­a­cle no in­no­cent by­standers were wounded or killed.

Po­lice haven’t specif­i­cally called this an ex­am­ple of gang vi­o­lence and we’ll leave it to the courts to de­ter­mine what hap­pened.

But this brazen, day­light shooting, with bul­lets fly­ing every­where, was sim­i­lar to an in­creas­ing num­ber of in­ci­dents oc­cur­ring on Toronto streets, as crim­i­nal gangs fight over turf and drugs.

One rea­son that’s hap­pen­ing is po­lice are no longer do­ing street checks, where they stop and ques­tion peo­ple on the street and record the in­for­ma­tion they ob­tain.

This has em­bold­ened gang mem­bers to in­creas­ingly carry guns around the city, be­cause they no longer fear be­ing stopped by po­lice.

Po­lice aban­doned street checks af­ter they were ac­cused of racism for do­ing them im­prop­erly.

Called card­ing — an im­proper street check — this oc­curred when po­lice stopped and ques­tioned peo­ple on the street ran­domly and ar­bi­trar­ily, on the ba­sis of race, or be­cause of­fi­cers had to fill a quota of card­ings.

The re­sult was the pre­vi­ous On­tario Lib­eral govern­ment in­tro­duced a reg­u­la­tion to ban card­ing that was so poorly writ­ten, po­lice aban­doned all street checks for fear of be­ing ac­cused of racism.

That in­cluded le­git­i­mate street checks, where of­fi­cers had rea­son­able grounds to sus­pect the peo­ple they were stop­ping were in­volved in crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity.

As Jus­tice Michael Tul­loch, as­signed by the pre­vi­ous Lib­eral govern­ment to ex­am­ine card­ing and their reg­u­la­tion re­ported last week: “Some po­lice street checks were proper. The im­proper prac­tice of ran­dom card­ing led to the Reg­u­la­tion. The Reg­u­la­tion led many po­lice of­fi­cers to not con­duct any street checks, whether proper or not. The lack of any street checks at all might have en­cour­aged some types of crime to in­crease.”

Tul­loch said while ran­dom card­ing isn’t ef­fec­tive in crime fight­ing, prop­erly done, street checks are.

What Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Con­ser­va­tive govern­ment should do is clear.

It should draft a re­al­is­tic, work­able reg­u­la­tion per­mit­ting po­lice to do proper street checks, which the pre­vi­ous govern­ment failed to do, with dire con­se­quences for pub­lic safety.

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