Alberta Justice and Aboriginal Relations Minister Kathleen Ganley has initiated talks with Edmonton police Chief Rod Knecht after a CBC story about carding raised concerns of racial profiling.

"Mostly I just want to know more information (about) what is going on and whether we have statistics on how this is being used, what the outcomes are," Ganley said prior to speaking with Knecht by phone Monday afternoon.

Before their conversation, Ganley said it would be premature to launch a formal review because she is unaware of any data suggesting there is a problem. She noted Ontario launched a review after statistics showed non-white people are disproportionately stopped with personal information documented in random police street checks.

Critics in Edmonton's legal and aboriginal community say street checks, sometimes called carding, singles out aboriginal people and other racial groups.

City police say they don't keep tallies by race but insist street checks are never racially motivated and are valuable for investigations.

Figures provided by the police service to CBC show patrol officers card about 26,000 people overall on average a year, based on four years of statistics.

Review of street checks needed: lawyer

"I think that's astonishing," said past president of the Criminal Trial Lawyers' Association D'Arcy DePoe, noting Edmonton police card about 500 people a week.

The recorded information is "essentially secret," DePoe said.

"There is no means to verify what is on the police computer is accurate. And none of this is based on any even suspicion of any criminal activity."

D’Arcy DePoe

Former Criminal Lawyers’ Association president D’Arcy DePoe says the number of street checks is 'astonishing.' (CBC)

DePoe said a review of carding is needed, and the police service must prove why it is justified, beyond anecdotal arguments.   

"We have to know what these data banks are all about," said DePoe. "We have to have public input as to what we want the police to do and what we don't want them to do.

"Let's have some facts. Let's see what they're collecting and let's see how they use it. And let's see some data on just how effective it is."

Asked Monday about streets checks during his monthly phone-in on CBC's Edmonton AM morning current affairs program, Mayor Don Iveson said it "makes sense" to him that carding is under review in Ontario.

Iveson said he discussed the carding issue with Toronto Mayor John Tory and other mayors last spring when they were in Edmonton.

"I think if there's a real palpable community concern that they're being used in a particular or discriminatory way, then I think that needs to be addressed first and foremost by the police service," said Iveson.

Iveson said there is appropriate community-type policing with people on the street, and then other times when it might be questioned.

"You see some great community police officers come up and say 'Hey how you doing, what's going on? See anything out of the ordinary? No?  OK, alright you know my name's so and so I walk this beat.' That's good community policing," Iveson said.

But stopping people randomly to ask for ID "no matter where they're from, that's going to put people's backs up and I don't think that's the best way for police to establish trust in the community," Iveson added.

Iveson noted the city has a police commission which oversees policing and "I don't get to tell them exactly what to do."

andrea.huncar@cbc.ca

@andreahuncar