Saskatoon Police confirm that nearly 4,500 people were stopped and asked for identification in the city, an average that is higher than other Canadian cities such as Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.

But the chief of the police, Clive Weighill, says the practice helps solve and prevent crimes.

"We want our officers out at night checking on people in suspicious circumstances. That's why we have patrol," Weighill told CBC. "I think it deters crime and helps people be accountable for what they're doing in the evening."

The numbers come from a special report in the Globe and Mail that compiled data from police forces across the country on the practice of carding: where a police officer stops a member of the public and asks to see their ID. 

Saskatoon police tell CBC that officers performed 4,457 street checks last year. That's about 1.7 per cent of the city's population, which police say is about the same rate as Halifax.

According to the Globe and Mail report, that puts Saskatoon near the top of the list in Canada.

Weighill said his officers are well versed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and aware that people do not have to stop and give their name if asked.

"I would hope citizens understand why we're doing our job and why we're asking those questions," he said. "There's nothing to fear by supplying their name."

Some citizens feel profiled

Fletcher Daniels

Fletcher Daniels has been stopped and asked for ID before. He says it makes him feel uncomfortable. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC)

CBC spoke to several people out walking along 20th Street today. Many said they had been asked to show their ID to police.

"Maybe they're looking for something, maybe they're looking for someone, I dunno," said Fletcher Daniels. "But it makes me feel uncomfortable. And why are they doing it?"

When we stopped a group of young people, several in the group raised their hands to say they had been stopped on a street check before.

Young people on 20th Street

Several people we spoke to on 20th Street said they had been asked for identification by Saskatoon police before, including the three people in the front row of this image. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC)

Curtis Peeteetuce

Curtis Peeteetuce says he hasn't been asked for ID for a long time, but a member of his family has been asked for ID while working on the east side of the city. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC)

One young woman said the city needs more First Nations police officers to make the force more diverse.

Curtis Peeteetuce said he hasn't been asked for ID for awhile. But he said there's a reason many people feel it's racial profiling.
    
"I do know one particular family member actually was profiled about seven times in two months," said Peeteetuce. "He was working on the east side of town and he was constantly being asked what he was doing on that side of town."

Police say street checks help solve crimes

Ernie Louttit

Retired Saskatoon police officer Ernie Louttit says carding, or street checks are an important way to solve crimes. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC)

"Sometimes there's bad feelings that come from street checks," said retired Saskatoon police officer Ernie Louttit. But he also believes carding can help solve crimes.

"I know some people feel that they're over-policed. But at the end of the day when it comes to solving crime that's one of the most effective ways to do it."

Louttit, who is Cree, said when he was a police officer, he didn't see racial profiling in street checks, but he said he saw geographic profiling.

"If you're in a high crime area, you're bound to get checked by police." 

In Saskatoon, computerized information gathered from these street checks is kept for ten years. In other cities, it's kept indefinitely.

Across the province, the numbers of street checks by police forces vary. 

Last year Prince Albert police did 227 street checks, and the Moose Jaw police performed 46. 

The Regina Police Service won't say how many, as not all names are entered into their computer system.