Police race-crime report could guide carding rules
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.