Po­lice race-crime re­port could guide card­ing rules

Sentinel-Review (Woodstock) - - OPINION - LORRIE GOLDSTEIN lgo­ld­[email protected]­media.com

The wide­spread con­fu­sion over what Jus­tice Michael Tul­loch said about po­lice card­ing in his re­port re­leased last week demon­strates why po­lice race-crime statis­tics should be avail­able to ev­ery­one.

First, Tul­loch did not say po­lice have no right to stop peo­ple on the street and ques­tion them — known as street checks — if they have rea­son­able grounds to be­lieve they may be in­volved in crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity, in­clud­ing hav­ing a gun in their pos­ses­sion.

He said, cor­rectly, that po­lice have no right to en­gage in card­ing, mean­ing ar­bi­trary and ran­dom street checks where the only rea­son for stop­ping and ques­tion­ing some­one is their race, or that the of­fi­cer must fill a quota of card­ings.

Sec­ond, he did not say street checks have lit­tle or no im­pact on crime. He sug­gested the op­po­site.

He said card­ing has lit­tle or no im­pact on crime and what lit­tle im­pact it may have is negated by the dis­trust and lack of co-op­er­a­tion it in­stils in the com­mu­nity tar­geted, such as the black com­mu­nity.

This is what he ac­tu­ally said: “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.”

I’d ar­gue it’s ob­vi­ous the lack of any street checks by Toronto Po­lice last year contributed to the record num­ber of mur­ders, shoot­ings and gun vi­o­lence on our streets, one rea­son be­ing that armed gang mem­bers no longer feared be­ing stopped and ques­tioned by po­lice. Now, back to the “Reg­u­la­tion.” Tul­loch is re­fer­ring to Reg­u­la­tion 58/16 ap­proved in 2017 and in­tended to reg­u­late card­ing, about which he wrote: “The Reg­u­la­tion as it is drafted is a confusing and some­what con­vo­luted doc­u­ment to read.” Tul­loch, ful­fill­ing the man­date he was given by the pre­vi­ous Lib­eral gov­ern­ment to re­view Reg­u­la­tion 58/16, made 104 rec­om­men­da­tions about how to im­prove it, in­clud­ing bet­ter po­lice train­ing so of­fi­cers are con­fi­dent they un­der­stand the dif­fer­ence be­tween le­git­i­mate street checks and il­le­git­i­mate card­ing.

It’s up to Premier Doug Ford and On­tario’s Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ment to de­cide what to do with Tul­loch’s re­port, if any­thing.

Much of what he says is log­i­cal and sen­si­ble, but the prob­lem is his re­port ig­nores the ele­phant in the room. That is, what con­sti­tutes “rea­son­able” grounds for a po­lice street check in an era when it’s now of­ten as­sumed — in our courts, on hu­man rights com­mis­sions and in much of our me­dia — that the po­lice are sys­tem­i­cally racist and that po­lice of­fi­cers can be guilty of con­scious and un­con­scious racism?

For decades, the un­der­ly­ing de­bate in Toronto about the polic­ing of the black com­mu­nity has been this: Are higher crime rates in the black com­mu­nity the re­sult of sys­tem­i­cally racist polic­ing, or, al­ter­na­tively, are po­lice more fre­quently but le­git­i­mately in con­flict with the black com­mu­nity be­cause a small mi­nor­ity within it com­mits a dis­pro­por­tion­ate amount of vi­o­lent crime?

The prob­lem is be­cause of the lack of pub­licly avail­able data of all po­lice race-crime statis­tics — rather than small parts of it which are oc­ca­sion­ally and selec­tively made pub­lic — this de­bate oc­curs largely in a vacuum.

Iron­i­cally, the same peo­ple who once op­posed re­leas­ing this data for fear it would be used to por­tray blacks as crim­i­nals, now want it re­leased to prove po­lice are racists.

We won’t have an hon­est de­bate about this is­sue — and a fair, work­able and re­al­is­tic pol­icy on po­lice street checks — un­til all of this data is pub­licly avail­able, so it can be as­sessed and de­bated out in the open.

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