Ontario’s police chiefs are “disappointed” with how the province is handling its plans to regulate police street checks and worry officers will be “handcuffed” by new rules expected this fall. The comments come days after reports minister of community safety Yasir Naqvi suggested he would ban the practice of “arbitrary carding” with a regulation expected to…
The police practice of arbitrarily approaching members of the public for the purpose of obtaining identification and personal information has been described under different terminology. “Street checks”, “carding”, “community interaction”, and “community engagement” are examples.
By whatever terminology the practice has been before the Board for over three years without resolution.
This practice and the Board’s failure to ensure the Police Service complies with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Ontario Human Rights Code has resulted in public and community mistrust of the police, leading to a fear of cooperating with the police which endangers public safety.
Although the Board may believe that the practice has been on hold since April 2014, evidence clearly demonstrates that the police officers continue to approach and detain members of the public for the sole purpose of obtaining identification and personal information.
In fact, the only aspect that has been suspended or minimized is that cards are no longer filled out by officers, making it impossible to track and monitor the extent and racial bias of this practice and its impact on racialized and marginalized members of the public.
On June 16, 2014 the government of Ontario announced that during this summer it would engage in consultations with respect to street checks. Following consultations the province will enact a regulation pursuant to the Police Services Act implementing “a set of rules to govern street checks”.
The Law Union of Ontario urges the Board to cease attempting to regulate a police practice which, whether regulated or not, is a clear violation of both the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Ontario Human Rights Code.
Rather, the Board should clearly define the limits within which police officers may engage members of the public for the purpose of obtaining identification and personal information. It is submitted that these limits should be defined as follows:
I. A police officer may only approach an individual for the purpose of obtaining identification or personal information if:
a) The approach is solely for the purpose of conducting a specific criminal investigation and the officer believes on reasonable grounds that there is a connection between the criminal investigation and the individual sought to be approached, or,
b) The officer believes on reasonable grounds that the approach is imminently necessary for the purpose of public safety or the personal wellbeing of the individual or,
c) The individual is the driver of a motor vehicle or is the subject of a Provincial offence.
II. Whenever an officer approaches an individual for any of the above-mentioned reasons, the officer shall forthwith advise the person that they are under no obligation to answer questions or provide identification and that they are free to go.
III. Where an individual is approached for any of the above-mentioned reasons, the officer shall provide the person with a receipt which sets out the date, time, and place, the officer’s full name, badge number, and the reason for the approach.
That the Board immediately suspend any approach by police officers for the purpose of obtaining identification or personal information until the Province enacts its Regulation this autumn and that the Board enact the limits prescribed in Recommendation 1.
All of which is respectfully submitted.
The Toronto Police board is going ahead with carding reform, bringing back a progressive community engagement policy and forging ahead despite a provincial review. The move has the potential to make the Toronto board one of the leaders in police and community engagement reform in North America. Board members voted Thursday to implement a progressive rights-based…