Alberta police chiefs president says he's seen no evidence of racial bias in street checks or 'carding'
'We don't care if you're black, brown, white, purple, pink,' says Andy McGrogan as province reviews guidelines
The president of the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police says he hasn't seen evidence that street checks or "carding" of citizens is any worse for black or Indigenous people in the province.
"We don't care if you're black, brown, white, purple, pink," said Andy McGrogan.
"Our job is to check high-risk, high-crime areas so we can keep our folks safe in a community. There's nothing more to it than that."
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McGrogan is chief of the Medicine Hat Police Service and the head of the provincial chiefs' organization that counts 15 law enforcement agencies among its members. Those include the Edmonton Police Service, Calgary Police Service, Blood Tribe Police and Tsuu T'ina Nation Police Service.
His comments come as the Alberta government launches a series of public consultations, as it reviews the controversial practice of police stopping people on the street, asking for ID and recording their information.
The consultations were announced after a CBC News investigation in June that revealed black people in Edmonton were nearly five times more likely to be stopped, questioned and documented by police than white people.
Indigenous people in Edmonton were more than six times as likely to be carded, and Indigenous women, in particular, were carded at nearly 10 times the rate of white people.
Also in June, lawyer Miranda Hlady obtained similar data from the Lethbridge police, showing black people were nine times more likely to be carded in that city, while Indigenous people were five times more likely.
McGrogan said he's not familiar with that data but he doubts it reveals a racial bias in police street checks.
"I haven't seen those stats so I don't know, but I'm going to step out on a limb here and I'm going to say perhaps some of their high-crime areas that they concentrate on may have a certain population that is more one colour than another," he said.
"We don't racially profile anybody," McGrogan added, speaking about his own city.
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"Medicine Hat hasn't had an issue. We checked, and I think 85 per cent of our street checks have been Caucasians. So maybe the Caucasian population should complain because, you know, there's an inordinate amount of Caucasian males in our community that have been street checked."
He said he recognized the issues in Medicine Hat may be different than in other parts of the province but said the intentions of all police services is the same.
"As far as the colour of the person goes, again, I might be a naïve guy living down in a beautiful part of the province but I can tell you right now that every chief that I speak to — which is all of them — we all have the same goal in mind," McGrogan said.
"We're just trying to keep our community safe and prevent crime."
Street checks vs. 'carding'
The head of the Alberta police chiefs association also took issue with the word "carding," describing it as a term that "came out of Eastern Canada."
He said the practice is known as "street checks" in his experience, and he said it's an essential tool in proactive, community policing.
"If somebody was walking down an alley in a residential area with a backpack on and a hoodie over their head at three in the morning, then the police should stop and check that person and see what they're doing and ask them," he said.
"That's what the community expects from us, and we just don't want to be restricted in our ability to do that."
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With files from Sarah Lawrynuik