‘The issue is not carding, the issue is racial bias in policing’
Toronto advocate responds after independent review concludes street checks should be banned
Full story at thestar.com
Kofi Hope was sitting in a car outside a Mississauga nightclub with a few friends trying to decide if they should brave the cold and get in line, when he says several cops suddenly surrounded them with flashlights, demanding they get out of the vehicle.
“They kept saying to us, ‘We know one of you has the record. Who has the record? Who has the record?’” Hope, now 35, says of the incident about 15 years ago.
No one did. After looking at all of their IDS, searching them and the car, he says police let the young men go. Hope is not sure what the officers did with his information from that night. But he says he does know he’s been stopped multiple times and he’s not the only one.
“I think most young people of colour in the GTA have had those experiences,” says Hope, a senior policy adviser at non-profit think tank the Wellesley Institute and a Rhodes Scholar.
“It’s disempowering, it’s insulting, you feel unsafe.”
A 300-plus page independent review of street checks known as “carding” that dropped on New Year’s Eve has advocates calling for urgent changes, saying arbitrary and discriminatory street checks like what Hope describes cannot be stopped without measures to address racial bias in policing.
The report from Court of Appeal Justice Michael Tulloch includes a review of the province’s 2017 regulation on carding and concluded that random street checks should be banned as they have little impact on reducing crime and have caused significant damage to racialized communities, especially among youth.
It includes recommendations to clarify when police can stop to collect identifying information outside of an active investigation — including that there should be some suspicion based on objective and credible grounds justifying an inquiry.
“It’s not news to anyone who’s been doing this work, or advocating around carding,” Hope says of the report’s conclusions.
“The issue is not about carding, the issue is about racial bias in policing ” he adds. “Carding is just one manifestation.”
There has to be better training, oversight and accountability, Hope says, because “the consequence of having even a few officers with those views is hugely detrimental.”
Staff Sgt. Valerie Graham of the Peel Regional Police told the Star in an email she’s unable to
“JUST BECAUSE A BIAS OR A PREJUDICE IS THERE CURRENTLY DOESN’T MEAN THAT IT’S GOING TO SUSTAIN ITSELF IF WE WORK INTENSELY AGAINST IT.”
Asante Haughton, 33, peer support leader, carded multiple times
comment specifically on Hope’s encounter. She said the service follows the provincial legislation on street checks.
“Peel Regional Police has never supported random arbitrary race-based stops of any kind, and if an officer was found to participate in such a stop, they would be disciplined,” she added.
Toronto police Const. Rob Reid told the Star on Monday he and his colleagues take the report “very seriously.”
In the report, Tulloch recommended further training for both front-line and supervising police officers on why the carding regulation was instituted, how it applies and what the legal basis for police stops are. The training should also include bias awareness, he wrote.
Asante Haughton, a 33-year- old peer support leader who says he’s been stopped by police so many times he’s lost count, agrees training is key.
“Just because a bias or a prejudice is there currently doesn’t mean that it’s going to sustain itself if we work intensely against it,” he said, adding carding breeds distrust, which can get in the way of solving actual crimes.
During his teen years living near Regent Park, he says he was stopped going to school, coming home from school, even in front of his own door. He says he’s been stopped at least 25 times, even though he’s never been arrested or involved with gangs.
More recommendations and reactions at thestar.com/gta
Kofi Hope, seen in his midtown office, has had personal experience with carding and is an advocate to stop the practice.
A new report from Court of Appeal Justice Michael Tulloch says street checks should be banned entirely since they have “little to no verifiable benefits relating to the level of crime or even arrests.”