Police street-checks, commonly referred to as “carding,” are getting little attention on the campaign trail. But the controversial practice affects thousands of people in all parts of the city, which is why the Police Services Board recently released a draft policy on carding and held public meetings to gather feedback on the proposed guidelines.
The Toronto Star has been investigating street-checks for several years. Here’s how the practice works, according to the paper: Police stop someone, whether they’re loitering, walking down the street, or driving a car, and record details—their name, address, height, weight, skin colour, and who they’re travelling with. That information is recorded on a “contact card” and filed away in a police database. The cops say that database, and carding in general, is a valuable policing tool. And the Star found anecdotes to support this, including one case where a card helped prove an accused murderer’s alibi was false.
The Star also found ample evidence that carding disproportionately targets young black men and verges on wholesale harassment. The program has drawn comparisons to the contentious “Stop and Frisk” practice by New York City police. Analysis showed that black people are documented by police 3.2 times more often than white people.
The Black Action Defence Committee has already filed a class human rights complaint against TPS, and has also proposed a class-action lawsuit.
The Police Services Board’s new policy aims to bring street-check procedures in line with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The board also wants cops to make it clear to people when they’re not obligated to speak to the police. The suggestion here is that, despite carding people every day, police have not been following these basic guidelines. Soon, however, it seems that we’ll all be on the same page when it comes to carding rules.