Revised carding policy criticized for retaining data

carding-2-picThe Toronto Police Services Board last Thursday approved a revised carding policy that will allow police to retain data collected under the old system.

The new policy is intended to bring Toronto Police in  line with provincial regulations that will come into effect on Jan. 1, 2017, banning arbitrary street checks and the collection of data based on a person’s race. The practice in Toronto was suspended on Jan. 1, 2015 by former Police Chief Bill Blair.

Police must also inform members of the public of their right not to talk with a police officer. Refusing to co-operate cannot be used as a reason to compel information.

However,  the revised policy has drawn severe criticism from individuals and groups in Toronto black community.”

Toronto human rights lawyer Osborne Barnwell told the Caribbean Camera that the retention  of the carding data was a ” very significant regression. ”

” This is a very troubling matter for those of us who have been fighting  against carding,” he said.

” The racist practice continues,” declared Desmond Cole, an activist and journalist.

Cole said the new policy “enshrines” carding’s place in the city. The information gleaned from the street checks, he said, should never have been obtained and therefore should never be used in the future.

Cole also questioned part of the new policy that allows police officers to use their discretion to stop and question people who appear suspicious;

In Toronto, he said, “being black is suspicious.”

Law student Knia Singh said the ongoing concern over carding in some communities might ease if officers notify people of their rights upfront.

“When an officer stops someone and says, ‘This is a voluntary interaction, you have no obligation to provide me information,’ then we would start to see a lot of those concerns dissipate,” he said.

Black Lives Matter Toronto  has also criticized the new policy on Twitter.

Councillor Shelley Carroll who is also a member of the Toronto Police Service Board, said the old data needs to be kept for ongoing legal proceedings.

“If we see excessive access and excessive use, I dare say this board will act,” she said.

“We’ve admitted that we did it wrong in some instances,” Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders told reporters, referring to the carding carried out in the past.

However, Saunders said that information may still hold the key to cracking cold cases and other major investigations. Under the new policy, he and other senior officers will have access to the data.

In a statement, Toronto Mayor John Tory said he ” advocated for the deletion of the historical data” but noted that the board ” received compelling advice related to the legal and practical rationale against deletion.

” I am satisfied that the resulting policy appropriately restricts access to this data and increases accountability and transparency around its use.”

But many in Toronto’s Caribbean community have been calling the Caribbean Camera to complain about the retention of data collected through carding.

They believe that the data should be destroyed.

(See Views On The News on Page 4 and Editorial on Page 6)