Ontario says it can’t get data on effectiveness of carding for current review

Evidence-based policy requires data:

The provincial government cannot compel Ontario’s police forces to hand over their data on street checks — including information as to how many times the controversial practice has helped solve crimes, according to Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services Yasir Naqvi.

That means that as the province continues its review of street checks, commonly known as “carding,” it will do so without knowing how often the practice has actually proved useful to investigations, by leading to an arrest, to the discovery of a weapon or drugs, or more.

“Legally we are not entitled to that data, under the Police Services Act, unless we require it in the regulation,” Naqvi told reporters during Tuesday’s public consultation at the Toronto Reference Library. Naqvi said his ministry has been consulting with Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioner about how to gain access to this policing data in aggregate form, stripped of any personal information.

“One of the reasons why this regulation is needed is to give the province the ability to require the disclosure of data, specific to how police services conduct street checks, to ensure that they are conducted in a way that is rights-based, fair and consistent across the province,” Lauren Callighen, Naqvi’s press secretary, said in an email.

Under Ontario’s Police Act, Callighen said, there are certain circumstances where the province may inspect municipal police services to review their practices, such as the use of force. “This regulation will ensure the same oversight for any policy on street checks.”

Nonetheless, in the absence of such data, the province described street checks in its online discussion document as a “necessary and valuable tool for police” when used properly —something critics of the provincial review have decried as, at best, presumptive.

Naqvi’s office did not respond to a question about what criteria were used to describe street checks as “a necessary and valuable tool,” if not police data.

The lack of information as to how carding interactions produce results has become one of the central issues in the heated debate around the practice.

Carding proponents, including Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders and Toronto Police Association president Mike McCormack, defend it as a vital investigative tool. Police have said the information contained in carding records can help officers connect the dots, perhaps to show an association between individuals, to place someone in an important place at a key time, and more.

Source: Ontario says it can’t get data on effectiveness of carding for current review | Toronto Star

John Tory, Mark Saunders get cover from Queen’s Park on carding issue: James

Royson James on the Ontario government’s public consultations on carding:

There is little reason to believe that the provincial Liberal government consultations on carding will yield anything more satisfactory than the chaotic farce the Toronto Police Services Board has delivered, led by Mayor John Tory.

To expect meaningful reform from the current initiative, with a stop in Toronto at the reference library Tuesday night, is to be overcome with naiveté borne of willful blindness.

In fact, the evidence points to a provincial government in cahoots with Tory and the Toronto police brass; one whose intervention is designed to offer pap and a public relations show, while preserving the essence of police street checks.

Notwithstanding the lofty statements about the government’s intolerance of discrimination, the impact of any new rules passed will likely be: police will have the ability to stop anyone, anytime, for any reason, stated or unstated, to psychologically, if not expressly detain said person, record personal information from said subject, and record the same in a police database.

And we know who will be targeted most.

And we know — or have been told ad nauseum this past year — the real, psychological, and social costs borne by the black community, particularly young black men.

But carding is a useful tool — according to opening statements on the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services website, announcing the review.

Done properly, the new police chief has said, carding is legal.

Done properly, we wouldn’t be here debating the matter, attempting to tame it, wrestling with the chief to find reasonable constraints on the practice, and advocating for reform.

Done properly, street checks in Toronto would follow the protocol drawn up in April 2014 by a Toronto police board that studied the matter and came up with as good a compromise as possible.

That was before John Tory and (now board chair) Andy Pringle and former chief Bill Blair turned the file into a horrible mess, a political hot potato and a public relations disaster.

Pringle, a member of the board in 2014 and Tory acolyte and Blair’s fishing buddy, convinced Tory that he should back Blair in his refusal to implement the board’s decision. Tory, while condemning carding, destroyed the 2014 policy designed to fix it, brought in new guidelines that created a firestorm of controversy, and was forced to go back to the very 2014 board policy he meddled with.

And this is where the province mysteriously entered the fray.

Why? Few can explain the motivation. How? In a manner that only fosters cynicism. Who would enter this messy situation, with the epicenter in Toronto, and decide to hold consultations in Ottawa and Thunder Bay but not Toronto? Who would set up private sessions with groups familiar with the issue and not include the Black Action Defence Committee (BADC)?

Source: John Tory, Mark Saunders get cover from Queen’s Park on carding issue: James | Toronto Star

Critics see problems with Ontario carding review

In advance of Toronto’s consultation on Tuesday, a look at three concerns raised by critics about the province’s street checks review and responses from the ministry and police associations:

The definition of “street checks” is too broad

In an online form the ministry calls its “discussion document,” street checks are defined as a tool police use “to engage and record interactions with individuals whose activities and/or presence within their broader context (e.g., location, time, behaviour, etc.) seem out of the ordinary.”

But Knia Singh — who has launched a Charter challenge against police carding and says he has been stopped by police 30 times — says the ministry’s definition is does not capture the reality of street checks, which involve arbitrary detentions.

The majority of community members who are concerned about carding are not opposed to police having the ability to stop and question people for a legitimate investigative purpose.

“What we’ve always been fighting is the non-criminal investigation of people,” Singh said. “What they’re missing is the whole point of people just walking on the street, standing on the corner or minding their own business are getting stopped.”

“If they are going to use the word ‘street check,’ they have to define it correctly,” Singh said. “Then we can have a discussion.”

Jonathan Rose, spokesperson for Naqvi’s ministry, said it’s in the process of updating the content of its street-check document online “to reflect the feedback that we have heard from our public consultation and online channels,” though he did not specify what changes were being made.

“We intend to make these changes to the web page content in the coming days,” Rose said in an email.

It misses the root problem of racial discrimination

In a lengthy submission to the ministry, the Ontario Human Rights Commission states its central concern with the street checks review is that it does not go far enough to address the “systemic issue” underlying the over-representation of racialized people in street-check interactions.

Ruth Goba, the OHRC’s interim chief commissioner, says the ministry does not go far enough to define when it is appropriate to perform street checks.

The OHRC challenges the suggestion that police may perform street checks when individuals’ activities “seem out of the ordinary.” That is just simply too broad, Goba says — and unguided officer discretion to initiate street checks is “fertile ground for racial profiling,” the OHRC writes.

Also, the larger issue “of racial profiling is not explicitly mentioned,” Goba says, “and that is a significant gap given how the issue has manifested itself.”

Rose said Naqvi has made it clear the government “takes the protection of human rights very seriously and that we have zero tolerance for racism or marginalization.”

It is taken for granted that street checks solve crime

In its description of street checks, the province describes the practice as “a necessary and valuable tool for police” that helps solve and prevent crime.

Chris Williams, an outspoken carding opponent and member of the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition, says stating carding’s usefulness as fact is problematic. Numerous groups, including TPAC, the Law Union of Ontario and the OHRC have argued there is a dearth of objective evidence supporting the claim that street checks solve crime.

Police forces and associations across Ontario often cite the importance street checks can play in solving crime…

Source: Critics see problems with carding review | Toronto Star

Racial profiling not addressed in Ontario public consultation over street checks

Valid concerns. That is the issue:

A public consultation about the police method of street checks Friday afternoon left some attendees disappointed over its structured format that left no time to discuss issues such as racial profiling.

The consultation, which was held at Carleton University and addressed issues including the definition of “street check,” rules about how they should be applied and administrative oversight, was attended by approximately 15 members of the public, along with a handful of Ottawa police and government officials.

“It’s a very active conversation,” said Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services Yasir Naqvi. “I’m very happy to hear the diversity of the people who are attending from our community, so we have varied perspectives represented in this consultation.”

The format of the consultation involved discussions among small groups on three specific questions, with results of their ensuing discussion written on sticky notes and posted on a board.

Participants were also encouraged to speak to the group as a whole after the group segment was finished.

But not all the people in attendance were satisfied with the scope of the conversation.

Carl Nicholson, a member of the Police Services Board who was not acting in an official capacity, said the “structured” discussion left little wiggle room to discuss potential bias and racial profiling.

“You can be sure it’s not far from our minds,” he said. “We do want the opportunity to explore what is driving those numbers.”

The numbers he mentioned refer to a document released in July. The police service’s combined statistics from 2011 through 2014 showed that 58 per cent of people it has street checked are white, 20 per cent are black and 14 per cent are Middle Eastern. Aboriginal, Asian, East Indian, Latin American and those whose race is unknown accounted for about seven per cent. The ethnicity of about 10 per cent of people street checked wasn’t recorded.

Racial profiling not addressed in public consultation over street checks | Ottawa Citizen.

Police Association of Ontario defends carding ahead of consultations

Clumsy and inappropriate way to influence the consultations and discussion:

As the province launches a round of public consultation on police carding, Ontario’s largest police association is stepping up its defence of the controversial practice with a poll suggesting 40 per cent of Ontarians support carding when provided with highly selective examples of the procedure.

In an online survey of 1,350 people conducted for the Police Association of Ontario (PAO) by ResearchEtc. last month, 36 per cent of respondents said they opposed carding, a colloquial term for the police practice of stopping, questioning and collecting information from residents without arresting them. Another 24 per cent stated they supported the measure, with a remaining 40 per cent falling into the “neutral/don’t know” category.

Those percentages changed when respondents were informed that a street check – another term for carding – was involved in capturing Russell Williams, the former commander of CFB Trenton currently serving two life sentences for first-degree murder. Opposition to the practice dropped to 18 per cent while support increased to 40 per cent.

“All the publicity around this has cast a shadow of doubt on our members,” said association president Bruce Chapman. “We believe the public supports the police and this verifies it.”

But the Williams example is a far cry from the repeated stopping and interrogating of young black men in Toronto that has stoked calls to rescind carding entirely, which speaks to the troublesome broadness of the term. Police netted Mr. Williams at a road block set up specifically to find one of the women he’d killed. In Toronto, critics claim street checks are rarely related to specific, ongoing crimes. Of 1.1 million carding entries filed from 2009 to 2011, the most common justification was “general investigation” – given in one-third of all stoppages, according to a Toronto Police report.

“This survey amounts to a lot of propaganda and distortion of facts,” said Knia Singh, a law student who said he has been carded by police 10 times and launched a constitutional challenge of carding in June. “The example the association gives is not carding as the African-American community or First Nation community know it. Members of these communities are being stopped when they are standing around minding their own business.”

Police Association of Ontario defends carding ahead of consultations – The Globe and Mail.

Carding across Canada: Data show practice of ‘street checks’ lacks mandated set of procedures

Police Street Checks Per CapitaGood comparative report from the Globe on street checks:

A Globe and Mail analysis found the practice lacks a mandated set of procedures after 21 Canadian police forces answered questions about interacting with community members in their respective jurisdictions. Most spoke willingly with The Globe, but some, including Winnipeg and Calgary, refused to respond to questions on the matter.

The practice typically involves an officer stopping a community member, questioning them and entering information into a computer database.

By speaking to forces around the country, The Globe found the following:

  • On average, in 2014 police forces that spoke with The Globe had stopped 0.86 per cent of their jurisdiction’s 2011 population.
  • The majority of police forces that disclosed to The Globe the length of time they keep records on community members who are stopped and questioned reported keeping records indefinitely.
  • All but two police forces interviewed by The Globe have no formal procedure in place to guide interactions between officers and community members who are stopped and questioned.
  • Most police forces in Canada call the practice a “street check.”
  • Most police forces in Canada use records management system Versaterm Inc.

The cities that did not respond to the survey (why?) include: Victoria, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Waterloo, Durham region, and Fredericton.

Carding across Canada: Data show practice of ‘street checks’ lacks mandated set of procedures – The Globe and Mail.

Op-Ed: Ottawa’s strange indifference to ‘street checks’

Valid points:

When Inspector Mark Patterson of the Ottawa Police Service presented a report showing that visible minorities are overrepresented among individuals subjected to “street checks”, the reaction was noticeably different. No questions were asked about the evidence of systemic racism revealed by the data, or any other aspect of the report for that matter. In an interview following the meeting, board chair Eli El-Chantiry came out strongly in favour of the lawfulness and utility of street checks. He categorically rejected the possibility that they were conducted in a racially discriminatory manner.

The numbers speak for themselves. In a city in which 5.7 per cent of the population is black, 20 per cent of those subjected to street checks are black. Although less than 5 per cent of the Ottawa population is of Middle Eastern origin, 14 per cent of street checks involved individuals identified as being Middle Eastern.

So why the lack of outrage? Is it because Cole’s narrative was personal, while the individuals in the Ottawa Police Service’s report are nameless, faceless statistics? Is it because the Ottawa police refer to the practice as a “street check” rather than “carding”? Is it something else?

After all, Ottawa has seen its share of high profile cases involving racial discrimination by police. Ottawa newspapers have covered the issue of street checks extensively. When the board met to discuss the police service’s report, one of the authors of this op-ed, Leo Russomanno, gave submissions urging them to seek an explanation for why visible minorities are overrepresented in the data. He also questioned the propriety of carding more broadly. Juxtaposed with the reaction in Toronto, the indifference of the board and other city officials – including the mayor – is jarring.

Op-Ed: Ottawa’s strange indifference to ‘street checks’ | Ottawa Citizen.

Premier Wynne, give us the data on police carding | Desmond Cole

Agree. The data should and needs to be shared:

Last week, the province launched a public consultation on police carding, the controversial practice of stopping and documenting civilians who are not suspected of any crime (some police forces use the terms “street checks” or “proactive policing” to describe the practice). The news is welcome and overdue — for years, police forces across Ontario have been disproportionately carding people with dark skin in the name of public safety.

The consultation includes an online survey, whose opening paragraph claims that “information collected during street checks may help solve and prevent crime.” Our police have never produced any data to back up this critical argument, and the province fails to do so in its consultation. If Queen’s Park wants meaningful public input on carding, it must publish independent, province-wide data showing how often carding happens, whom it tends to affect, and how much relevant information, if any, it produces.

Carding remains controversial in part because police tend to suppress data about it. The few existing stats tell us nothing about the relationship between carding and public safety. But data from police in Ottawa, Hamilton and Toronto is clear about carding’s racial bias; in each of these cities, black residents are overwhelmingly the most likely people to be carded.

Only 5 per cent of Ottawa residents are black, but 20 per cent of people carded in the nation’s capital in recent years have been black. Since 2010, Hamilton police have carded blacks at a rate of three to four times their share of the local population. The total number of people carded in Toronto dropped sharply in 2013, but during the same period the share of blacks being carded actually went up. This is the reality in three of Ontario’s five most populated cities.

The police forces responsible for this skewed policing deny there is any problem, and simultaneously hide relevant info on their activities. In June, Ottawa police chief Charles Bordeleau claimed his force did not collect information on the racial breakdown of carding incidents. A month later under growing public scrutiny, Ottawa police produced the race-based data the chief claimed they didn’t have.

…Officers with the Toronto Anti-Violence Intervention Strategy (TAVIS) have done the majority of Toronto police’s carding in recent years. TAVIS has refused the Star’s requests for data on the number of its contacts that result in arrests or the recovery of guns. However TAVIS data from 2008, the most recent year available, shows that officers failed to lay charges during 98 per cent of carding interactions; that same year, TAVIS officers recovered a firearm once in every 650 times they carded a resident.

Premier Wynne, give us the data on police carding | Toronto Star.

Ottawa Street check race data ‘cries out’ for an explanation: lawyer

Ottawa’s carding data with similar over-representation of Blacks and Middle Easterners as elsewhere, with analysis yet to come:

Asked if that over-representation concerns the service, Chief Charles Bordeleau said the data were “very raw” and absent important information that would put the numbers into perspective.

“There hasn’t been any analysis whatsoever or any context behind the numbers,” Bordeleau said.

Yet in his public address to the board, defence lawyer Leo Russomanno said those figures and what they suggest demand analysis.

“It should be concerning to this committee … that in a population where only 5.7 per cent is black, 20 per cent of those being street-checked, according to the statistics being provided, are black,” Russomanno said. “In a population of less than five per cent described as being Middle Eastern, 14 per cent of those that fit that description are being stopped in street checks.

“Now, there may be another explanation for this, but in my view it cries out for an explanation.”

Russomanno urged the board to seek a formal legal opinion on the legality of street checks. He wants the board to participate in making the process lawful, he said.

“Individuals involved in street checks have a right choose whether to co-operate with police or not.”

Street check race data ‘cries out’ for an explanation: lawyer | Ottawa Citizen.

Toronto Mayor John Tory calls for end to carding – Toronto – CBC News

Quite a change from his earlier position (not a bad thing in itself to be flexible and respond to public pressure):

Tory said the issue has been among “the most personally agonizing” since he became mayor.

“After great personal reflection and many discussions … I concluded it was time to say, enough. It was time to acknowledge there is no real way to fix a practice which has come to be regarded as illegitimate, disrespectful and hurtful.

“It was better to start over.”

Tory said his discussions included a talk with journalist Desmond Cole, who recently wrote about his experiences with carding for Toronto Life.

Cole said he was “overjoyed” with the mayor’s move, but cautioned that more action is needed.

“This has been a long time coming,” Cole told reporters. “Now we have to make sure [Tory] and the police services board and Chief Mark Saunders follow-up on this announcement … so carding is actually ended. So we’ll wait and see.”

Toronto Mayor John Tory calls for end to carding – Toronto – CBC News.

Christie Blatchford’s take:

Carding aside, what’s interesting here is that as of last week, presumably shortly before he hopped that plane to Edmonton, Tory was proudly standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Toronto’s new police chief, Mark Saunders, in defending the practice — always with a view to reforming it and improving it, he said (as indeed does the chief) but defending it nonetheless, and seemingly with sincerity.

It was a brave, if politically dangerous, position to take, I thought, and reinforced the romantic notion I think I had of the new mayor. (Before running for mayor, he was the host of a radio show on Newstalk 1010, where I was a regular guest, and I came to like him very much, and still do.)

But he is a politician, after all, and one who after several unsuccessful forays in politics has landed in a job he absolutely loves and for which he seems tailor-made: He works like a dog, is out and about every weekend at this festival or that, and has been by most measures a pretty good mayor.

And politicians, perhaps particularly those who enjoy the work and relentless social contact it entails, don’t like being unloved.

The voices against carding were rising; nothing said that better than a press conference last week featuring all manner of former civic leaders (why, they ran the gamut from A to B, from Gordon Cressy to David Crombie) denouncing the practice. And the voices against it were also louder (the Star has made it a veritable campaign, with at least one of its columnists suggesting pretty directly that Tory was a racist for supporting carding) than any on the other side.

I suspect internal polling numbers told Tory this was not a fight he would win, and that his support, even for a reformed version of carding, might define his mayoralty. And it’s a more believable explanation than the revelation-in-a-taxi or the epiphany-on-the-streetcar.

Christie Blatchford: Epiphanies on playing the cards right