Mayor Crombie Welcomes New Carding Regulations


Random carding, the controversial police practice of arbitrarily stopping and collecting information from people on the street who are not otherwise under suspicion (and certainly not under arrest), has been strictly regulated by the province of Ontario and Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie is welcoming the news.

Yesterday, Ontario put forth its final regulations to ban police from randomly stopping people on the street to collect information. According to a recent CBC article, the regulations -- initially posted for public comment last October -- lay out what the provincial government calls "clear and consistent rules" for police officers who are interfacing with the public.

The practice of carding, long supported by the police and law enforcement advocates who could often only offer anecdotal examples of the crime-stopping benefits of street checks, had been incredibly controversial for some time.

Although former mayor Hazel McCallion spoke out in support of the practice as recently as January, current Chief Magistrate Crombie has long been a vocal critic.

Last September, Peel Police Chief Jennifer Evans announced that carding would continue despite advice from the police board to suspend the practice until it could be more thoroughly reviewed. Carding is a challenging issue not only because it involves the police stopping random people on the street and questioning them without solid, evidence-based cause, but because there are thorny racial issues associated with street checks.

According to a September article in The Star, data obtained by the newspaper showed that from 2009 to 2014, black people were involved in 21 per cent of the force's 159,303 street checks in Brampton and Mississauga. While those numbers may not sound troublingly high at first glance, it's important to consider that, in 2011, black people only made up nine per cent of the population of those two cities. The Star's data therefore suggests that black people are three times more likely to be carded than whites.

This disparate application of the law has led to long-standing acrimony between the public and the police.

Now, the government has ruled that race cannot be invoked as a reason for a street check. According to The CBC, Yasir Naqvi, Ontario's community safety and correctional services minister, said "police officers cannot collect your information based on the way you look or the neighbourhood you live in.”

The police also have to clarify that no one is required to provide information of any kind to the officer during a random encounter.

Starting next year, police who stop civilians on the street are required to tell people that they are not mandated by law to speak with them or offer any information. Well residents who were being carded were never required to produce information or talk to the police, few were aware that they could walk away from the interaction without incident. Now, officers will be compelled to say that the interaction is voluntary upfront. That said, The CBC points out that the police can still compel people to give information in the event of a traffic stop, arrest or detainment or when an official search warrant is produced. The new regulations will not apply to undercover officers.

The CBC also reports that officers must offer a written record of any interactions, including their name and badge number, as well as information on how to get in touch with the Independent Police Review. There will also be more checks and balances in place, as officers will be required to submit the identifying information they collect to the local chief of police within 30 days for review. Once a year (at minimum), the chiefs will be required to review the data to ensure it was collected fairly and in compliance with the new regulations.

The balanced approach -- it doesn't ban police interactions with passersby, but it does set firm parameters as to how members of the public can be approached -- has been lauded by Crombie.

"Since June of 2015, I have joined members of the Peel Police Services Board to raise the level of public debate needed on the issue of police street checks," Mayor Crombie said in a press release. "In September, the Board passed a resolution recommending the suspension of this practice, which is why I am encouraged by the leadership and action being taken from Minister Naqvi's announcement today. I have repeatedly said we must provide front line police officers with the tools they need to do their jobs, but at the same time we must protect the rights and freedoms of all residents, despite race, religion or ethnicity, or other characteristic.

These principles are reflected in the final regulation brought forward by Minister Naqvi and the Wynne government today. This rights-based framework is the first of its kind in our province's history and will make a positive and lasting difference in Mississauga and in communities across Ontario."

According to the press release, Crombie will discuss the need for public education sessions to make residents aware of their rights with the Peel Police Services Board. The mayor is also concerned with protecting data obtained from previous street checks in order to ensure that it's not used without due cause.

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