Carding: The tail wags the dog

Are we now seeing the true nature of the power play behind the police practice of carding in the City of Toronto? Has the Toronto Police Service Association been calling the shots, not the TPS board?

It has been widely reported in the media that the new police chief, in public responses to media questions, has been unwilling to support the elimination of carding. It has also been publicly reported that the president of the police association has even more emphatically insisted that carding is a necessary tool in the intelligence-gathering that is key to effective crime fighting.

So, we are now getting a clear indication that the tail is wagging the dog. Is this evidence of blatant insubordination?

But that is only one of our major concerns. We find it even more disturbing that both of those influential officials do not appear to consider that carding is illegal and that they are therefore breaking the law.

Carding is illegal because it involves random stopping, interrogating and recording of the information of a person, without the laying of any charge against that person. It is illegal because it infringes on the rights of a person who is not suspected of being directly related to a specific crime that has allegedly been committed or is allegedly being committed.

We are even more concerned by the implications of the reported comments of those two officials. By re-affirming their commitment to carding, they appear to be taking it upon themselves to approve and to act on the principle that, in order to ensure the safety of all of us, they must infringe on the rights of some of us.

That reasoning amounts to saying that they need to break the law in order to guarantee law and order.

Such approval may only come from a judge or a magistrate, to whom adequate evidence must be presented to justify the proposed police action.

This procedure exists to protect the rights of the individual. These rights include the rights to privacy, enjoyment of property, freedom of movement, presumption of innocence until proven guilty, non-discrimination and equal treatment before the law.

On that basis, carding is illegal because it disregards the requirements of due process. No one may be deprived of their rights if due process has not been followed.

We have always been convinced that carding should be eliminated, not reformed.

We sensed that we were being taken for a ride in recent years in the circus that involved “reforming” the policy governing carding.

But something in that show was not always clear to us: Who was aiding and abetting whom in flaunting the policies and decisions of the police board? There was a lot of speculation about the role of the former chief, and there is now speculation about the role of the current chief, in the defiance of the board’s instructions on carding.

Notwithstanding those doubts, we are left with clear indications that the tail is in fact wagging the dog.

What a canine division of labor.