Card­ing re­port could hit wall given Ford’s history

The Sudbury Star - - OPINION - ROBIN BARANYAI [email protected]

Jan­uary is a time of re­flec­tion on the year just past: the good, the bad and the ugly. Firmly oc­cu­py­ing ugly ter­ri­tory was the year in crime.

Toronto suf­fered an un­prece­dented 96 mur­ders last year, 51 by gun­fire. The grim tally sur­passed the city’s pre­vi­ous record of 89 homi­cides, set in 1991. The deadly toll was ex­ac­er­bated by what Toronto po­lice Chief Mark Saun­ders de­scribed as “two mass ca­su­alty in­ci­dents” — a van at­tack on Yonge Street and a shoot­ing spree on the Dan­forth — carv­ing a scar through the city’s psy­che.

Toronto is just one city, but fully one-fifth of the prov­ince re­sides there. An ap­par­ent rise in vi­o­lent crime seems to call out for an in­sti­tu­tional re­sponse. And therein lies the dan­ger, un­der pro­vin­cial lead­er­ship that has shown it­self more dis­posed to brash ac­tion than thought­ful plan­ning.

A small but vo­cal cho­rus of crit­ics has been call­ing for the re­turn of card­ing — the rather in­tru­sive po­lice prac­tice of ar­bi­trar­ily col­lect­ing data on cit­i­zens not sus­pected of any crime, nor hav­ing in­for­ma­tion about one.

Toronto po­lice sus­pended the prac­tice in 2015 un­der in­tense pub­lic scru­tiny. Data from sev­eral ju­ris­dic­tions show a dis­pro­por­tion­ate im­pact on racial­ized com­mu­ni­ties, in par­tic­u­lar black and In­dige­nous pop­u­la­tions. Now, an in­de­pen­dent re­view has rec­om­mended the prov­ince ban card­ing out­right.

Jus­tice Michael Tul­loch of the On­tario Court of Ap­peal gath­ered opin­ions and ex­per­tise from more than 2,000 stake­hold­ers, in­clud­ing po­lice and the pub­lic, be­fore mak­ing his rec­om­men­da­tions. His re­port ac­knowl­edges some ben­e­fits to ran­dom street checks. The in­for­ma­tion they yield can help solve crimes, or even serve as a de­ter­rent.

But the po­ten­tial ben­e­fits are dra­mat­i­cally out­weighed by steep so­cial costs, the re­port con­cludes, which ul­ti­mately un­der­mine pub­lic con­fi­dence in polic­ing.

Tul­loch dif­fer­en­ti­ates be­tween fo­cused street checks, which have a de­fined in­ves­tiga­tive pur­pose, and ran­dom card­ing.

The trou­ble with card­ing is man­i­fold. Data col­lec­tion be­comes, in it­self, a pro­duc­tiv­ity met­ric for po­lice per­for­mance, in­creas­ing po­ten­tial for abuse and di­vert­ing en­ergy from com­mu­nity polic­ing ini­tia­tives.

More broadly, it un­der­mines pub­lic trust. Par­ents de­scribed in­ci­dents where po­lice recorded in­for­ma­tion from black chil­dren, but not their white friends.

“These first in­ter­ac­tions with po­lice have a long-term im­pact on young peo­ple,” Tul­loch wrote. “They can es­tab­lish ei­ther a friendly or an an­tag­o­nis­tic re­la­tion­ship with po­lice that will last a life­time.”

Such an­tag­o­nism cre­ates fer­tile ground for gang vi­o­lence and gun vi­o­lence to take root, bring­ing the ug­li­ness full cir­cle.

The de­ci­sion whether to ban card­ing now rests with the On­tario govern­ment.

Pre­mier Doug Ford po­si­tions him­self as a friend to po­lice. (The de­scrip­tor is both fig­u­ra­tive and lit­eral: he con­tro­ver­sially el­e­vated a fam­ily friend to head up the OPP, pend­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the in­tegrity com­mis­sioner.)

One of his first acts in of­fice was to sus­pend the im­ple­men­ta­tion of new po­lice over­sight legislation, a day be­fore it was to come into ef­fect. Bill 175 con­tained the first amend­ments to the Po­lice Ser­vices Act in 25 years. Many long-over­due changes were the re­sult of a po­lice over­sight re­view, also con­ducted by Tul­loch.

Ford has said he would not bring back card­ing. Yet it seems to fit with the pre­mier’s tough-on-crime blus­ter, his tilt­ing at “oner­ous regulations” con­strain­ing po­lice con­duct.

Ford also said he wouldn’t can­cel the guar­an­teed in­come pi­lot project. And then he did.

Com­mu­nity Safety and Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices Min­is­ter Sylvia Jones’s re­sponse so far has been vague.

“We will fix the po­lice legislation the Lib­eral’s [sic] broke,” she tweeted New Year’s Eve. “Jus­tice Tul­loch’s re­port will in­form this work.”

The re­port was clear: “Card­ing is a prac­tice that no longer has any place in mod­ern polic­ing.”

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