Ontario’s Liberal government announced that it plans to discard the practice of arbitrary police carding across the province and implement new regulations. Durham Regional Police Services say they will embrace the changes to come in the province’s new legislation.
Carding, also known as street checks, is a police practice, which involves police stopping, recording and collecting a person’s information even under non-suspicious circumstances.
The practice is controversial, and criticized by the public as a breach of charter rights and creating animosity between the police and the members of communities. Much of the criticism has been directed towards to Toronto, Peel, and Hamilton police, who have been scrutinized for disproportionately carding more black people over whites.
Dave Selby, Director of Corporate Communications for Durham Regional Police (DRPS) says there are some misconceptions that the public has regarding the practice, what it’s used for and what it really means.
“Every police service has a form of that, we record some interactions with the public, there are five or six categories of which that goes in,” he says.
Selby says that the term carding has been a term defined outside of policing, and falls into a pot of many other forms of public interaction including instances where officers visit homes of released offenders to enforce court orders to ensure offenders are home when they’re supposed to be. He believes that the new legislation will give the police better direction in how to apply street checks, and offer the public a clearer understanding of policing methods.
“There is no police definition called ‘carding’, it doesn’t exist. The rules of engagement are slightly different all over the place,” he says.
Selby doesn’t believe the practice of stopping and recording information from people should be discontinued altogether. He says, however, that it’s wrong for people to be stopped simply because of their skin colour.
“In a lot of policing, it’s not random, it’s following up on a specific lead,” he says.
Selby says there is value in recording certain types of information to facilitate the task of policing.
“The number one thing police need is information to solve crime,” says Selby.
Durham region police receive 500 to 600 calls a day, out of those calls approximately 200 of them result in a police report. On average four to six homicides take place in Durham every year, but when it comes evaluating the number of crimes that have been resolved through the practice of street checks Selby says,
“Anecdotally that information does help. But in terms of numbers, we don’t record that.”
Although Selby says he doesn’t believe Durham has faced many complaints regarding carding practices he says that officers aren’t prefect, and that police should be able to articulate a cause for their interaction.
“Most police services welcome the province to come out with very clear definitions and rules that we can live by accordingly, and we welcome that,” says Selby.