Street Checks Plummet in Mississauga

Street checks (also known as carding) have received a great deal of attention (some of which was fairly critical) over the past few years, prompting some public figures—including Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie—to call for stricter regulations.

The checks, which involve police questioning residents who are not necessarily under suspicion or tied to an active investigation, have been controversial. Some claim these checks are necessary to prevent crime. Others say they breed animosity between police and civilians—especially those of colour.

Now, new data suggests that Peel Regional Police are approaching far fewer individuals than in previous years.

A Peel Police Services Board annual report reveals that police collected data from just two individuals in all of 2017.

Previous media reports have indicated that Peel police would collect information from thousands of people per year, and much debate has centered around the fact that some people of colour report more challenging/difficult interactions with police (in all jurisdictions, not Peel exclusively) during routine checks.

As for what’s driving the decline, it has a lot to do with new regulations passed down by the province.

Since January 1, 2017, a new regulation (Ontario Regulation 58/16) has been effect which prohibits police from “requesting identifying information arbitrarily, or based on a person’s race or presence in a high-crime neighbourhood during certain police-public interactions.”

For a little over a year now, the regulation has enforced new rules for police to follow when requesting identifying information. These new rules and criteria apply if an officer asks someone for identification while:

  • Looking into suspicious activities
  • Gathering intelligence
  • Investigating possible criminal activity.

The new rules do not apply if police ask for identifying information or to see an identifying document while:

  • Doing a traffic stop
  • Arresting or detaining someone
  • Executing a warrant
  • Investigating a specific crime.

According to the report, just two “interactions were completed in compliance with the legislation in 2017.” In one instance, police collected information from an individual. During the other interaction, no information was collected.

The report says that both checks involved men who appeared to be over the age of 18. The first individual, who the report indicates was a black man, was approached by police in the Bovaird and Chinguacousy area in Brampton. No information was obtained during the interaction.

The other check, with reportedly involved a white man, took place in the Dixie and Burnhamthorpe area in Mississauga. Information was reportedly obtained during the encounter.

The report indicates that neither man complained about or brought the interaction to the attention of any authorities after the fact.

Justice Michael Tulloch, a judge of the Ontario Court of Appeal, was recently appointed to lead an independent review of the new rules across the province. The Independent Street Checks Review has been undergoing a public consultation phase and has invited residents can weigh in on Ontario’s new rules on street checks.

The practice remains controversial, and still has some support in the community.

Peel police Chief Jennifer Evans, who was a strong advocate for street checks, told insauga.com that they can help police connect some important dots when investigating a crime.

They link people and places together. If two people are stopped in a car, police can track that they were in a car together at a specific point in time,” Evans told insauga.com during a 2017 interview.

Later on, if people are being interviewed with respect to a crime somewhere and they deny knowing each other, the information on the police database would contradict what they said. It’s not the street check itself that solves the crime, it’s the connections they identify.”

Although the topic has been controversial for some time, the move to regulate street checks is the result of feedback from public consultations on how to improve police transparency, oversight and public confidence. The change will also establish new training, record-keeping and reporting requirements to strengthen accountability.

Ontario is actually the first jurisdiction in Canada to set rules for voluntary police-public interactions where police are seeking identifying information. While some have argued that the new rules will hinder crime prevention, they do help clarify that arbitrary street stops are not akin to arrests or detainments. While citizens have always been free to refuse to provide ID to officers during arbitrary street checks, many were unaware that the interactions were voluntary.

Justice Tulloch is set make recommendations on all aspects of the use of carding or street checks, including how the province might improve the current rules.

The entire review focuses on the consistent application of the regulation without bias or discrimination, compliance by police officers and chiefs of police when applying the regulation, challenges encountered in applying the regulation, the appropriateness of the accountability and oversight mechanisms of the regulation, and whether additional changes are necessary to improve the practice of street checks, or whether street checks are still necessary in today’s policing practices.

Ultimately, Justice Tulloch’s review will examine training, policies, and procedures around the new regulation.

“Justice Tulloch will be reviewing the content of the Regulation and assessing whether police officers, chiefs of police and police services boards are complying with it,” according to the Independent Street Checks Review online. “More specifically, the Review will assess whether the Regulation reflects the government’s goal of ensuring that police-public relations are consistent, bias-free and done in a way that promotes public confidence and protects human rights.”

His final report will be made public by January 1, 2019.

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