Carding: Going, going, but not gone

Why, o why, is there such a desperate desire to cling on to some aspect or some remnant of carding?

We keep asking ourselves that question because we simply cannot accept the trumped-up argument that there is some justifiable advantage to be derived from the highly illegal and highly unethical policy of police carding.

Is there some sort of greed for demonstrated evidence of success in the prevention, reduction and suppression of crime?

Is there an obsessive determination to carry out policing as the police officers and the police establishment see fit?

Or has there been a concession from a sitting Mayor who wants to sew up the support of the police establishment for a second consecutive term in office?

Or has a sitting Mayor caved in to a demand or warning from other powerful business, financial or political interests? Are there such powerful interests who either believe in the policy and practice of carding or see the support of the police establishment as being a critical factor in ensuring that the sitting Mayor secures a second term in office?

We pause to consider the viability of those possible explanations and other conspiracy theories.

On the one hand, there is some evidence that progress is being made in the long struggle to convince the police services, the city governments and the provincial government to ban carding in any form or fashion.

In that regard, the new provincial regulations aimed at eliminating carding are due to come into effect in 2017. And the Toronto Police Service (TPS) Board has just approved a set of policies on the subject of carding.

But, on the other hand, some activists and analysts have voiced their concerns as to whether or not these two developments have effectively made carding illegal, with the sole exception of cases in which persons are justifiably suspected of involvement in or knowledge of a crime that has been committed, is alleged to have been committed or is about to be committed.

Moreover, we must protest vehemently against one major feature of the policies recently announced by the TPS Board.

It is reprehensible and utterly irresponsible that these policies should include the retention, control and use of the data already collected by the illegal practice of carding.

We categorically reject the official refusal to destroy that illegally obtained data.

Apparently, our TPS, TPS Board and City Council seem to have conveniently forgotten that illegally obtained information is so seriously tainted in law that that is not admissible in court.

We are therefore not at all comforted by the police authorities’ assurances that there will be high-level controls over the access to and the use of the existing data collected through carding in the past.

We wonder how many persons’ human rights have been infringed when such poisonous data was used, formally or quietly, to cast doubts on their eligibility for police clearance, employment , permanent residence or citizenship. How many deportees have been unfairly targeted based on this data?

Here are two recommendations that address the interests of the victims of carding.

The first one is that the police service should set up internal mechanisms to provide counseling and support services for the victims of carding, in which all police officers should be involved.

The second is that the police service should use part of its own financial resources to pay for those services to be provided externally.

Given the fact that many segments of the community harbour a noticeable degree of distrust towards the police, we strongly endorse the second recommendation.