Police Carding in Toronto

July 25, 2016 at 5:09 pm

TorontoNAJC has recently completed a ”watching brief” on carding explaining why it is racially discriminatory and a violation of rights and describes how the Toronto Police, Toronto Police Services Board, key stakeholders and the Ontario government responded to the issue.”

In 2015, as the public controversy heightened over carding practices of the Toronto police force , the TorontoNAJC Board decided to maintain a “watching brief” on the issue in keeping with its interest in issues involving racial discrimination and violation of human and civil rights. To read the full article on police carding, click on the link below to download the pdf file.
Police carding in Toronto and Responses

WHAT IS CARDING? Carding is the random stopping and questioning of any individual by a police officer and recording the name, address, and other information including age, perceived skin colour, estimated height, and weight, and the names of friends into a permanent database used by the police.   In Toronto, in 2014 the practice was called “Community Contacts ” and changed to “Community Engagements” in 2015. The police reference the database for possible leads in their investigations.

In last 50 years as cities grew in size and diversity, policing in big cities evolved with more organized information gathering facilitated by the greater use of computer technology. Police used random stopping and questioning of individuals as they patrolled the streets to gather information, and maintained a permanent record of the personal information of the individuals interviewed as a basic investigative tool.   Thus “carding” became a standard practice in big city police forces in North America.Up to March of this year, in Ontario, carding was not specifically regulated, but was carried out under the provisions of the Police Services Act which outlined the general duties of a police officer as crime prevention, investigation of crimes and keeping the peace.   At same time however, as with almost all statutory requirements, actions of the police are to respect the Canadian Charter of Rights and Ontario Human Rights Code.

In Toronto, over the last 40 years racial discrimination has been a simmering issue which has boiled over into full blown public controversy over specific incidents from time to time. In particular, the relationship between the black community and the police as been primary focus. Black community leaders have complained that police have tended to focus unduly on the members of their community since the mid 1970s.   The evidence provided was mostly anecdotal and of specific incidents encountered by individuals.   The issue took on a greater profile as a result of the Toronto Star newspaper series on police and racial profiling beginning in 2002.   The Star analyzed data on policing actions which had be requested from the Toronto Police under the freedom of information act. The Star analysis provided statistical evidence of racial profiling by the police:“Blacks arrested by Toronto police are treated more harshly than whites, a Toronto Star analysis of crime data shows. Black people, charged with simple drug possession, are taken to police stations more often than whites facing the same charge. Once at the station, accused blacks are held overnight, for a bail hearing, at twice the rate of whites. The Toronto crime data also shows a disproportionate number of  black motorists are ticketed for violations that only surface following a traffic stop. This difference, say civil libertarians, community leaders and criminologists, suggests police use racial profiling in deciding whom to pull over. The evidence is contained in a massive police database recording more than 480,000 incidents in which an individual was arrested, or ticketed, for an offence dating back to 1996. It included almost 800,000 criminal and other charges. The Star obtained that data through a freedom of information request, marking the first time access to these numbers was granted to anyone outside the police community. (the TorontoStar, Oct 19, 2002)