Saskatoon police on patrol

Saskatoon police on a regular patrol along a river park space. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC)

A University of Saskatchewan law professor says there needs to be more clarity from the courts about carding, a practice where an officer stops and asks a person for their name and identification. 

According to Glen Luther, a criminal law professor at the U of S, people don't have to give police their information if they aren't being detained, but most people don't know that.

"These encounters are under the law considered voluntary, that is, if a police officer asks you a question you are perfectly entitled to walk away and not answer it. Just like if I walked up to you on the street and asked for your name," Luther said.

In an interview with CBC Wednesday, Saskatoon Police Chief Clive Weighill defended the practice as good police work. 

"Well that's our job. We want our officers out at night checking on people in suspicious circumstances, that's why we have patrol. And I think it deters crime and makes people accountable for what they're doing in the evening," Weighill said. 

But Luther said often these practices disproportionately affect marginalized groups or the aboriginal population. 

"Such people do not necessarily understand that they do not have to answer the question. Often the question becomes then what is the police reaction if you don't answer their questions," he said. 

Luther said he is not suggesting that people don't cooperate with police, but that their rights should be known from the get go. 

In Toronto, carding policies have changed so that police have to inform people of their rights when they ask for identification. Luther said this policy should be applied across the board. 

"[In] these kinds of situations Canadians are more in need of protection because there isn't any legitimate suspicion that the police have," Luther said. "So one wonders what's the hesitation in giving that information (to people)." 

Weighill said there isn't a policy in Saskatoon that requires it, however, it has been talked about by police chiefs on a national level.