Calgary

Calgary police 'carding' raises concerns, says civil liberties group that filed FOIP request

A civil liberties group is raising questions about Calgary police stopping people in public places and asking them for identification — a tactic similar to a practice commonly known as "carding" in other jurisdictions.

Group says questions remain about how often and where police employ the tactic and how information is handled

Police collecting data on tens of thousands of Calgarians, warns group

CBC News Calgary

5 years agoVideo
2:27
Kelly Ernst, Rocky Mountain Civil Liberties Association president, says it's not clear what police do with the information they collect through carding, or whether Calgarians can do anything about it. 2:27

A civil liberties group is raising questions about Calgary police stopping people in public places and asking them for identification — a tactic similar to a practice commonly known as "carding" in other jurisdictions.

Through a freedom of information (FOIP) request, the Rocky Mountain Civil Liberties Association received data dating back to 2010 and, while the numbers show a decline in how frequently Calgary police use the tactic, the group says many questions remain.

The police carded people 27,735 times in 2015, a decline of 40 per cent from 46,081 such incidents in 2010.

Rocky Mountain Civil Liberties Association president Kelly Ernst noted there are still tens of thousands of such incidents in the city every year and it's not clear exactly what happens to the information police collect.

"All of that information is kept somewhere in some database and being shared with other police forces," Ernst said.

"So we need to know a little bit more information about the carding — or 'police checkups' as they're called in Calgary — than what is readily available."

The Rocky Mountain Civil Liberties Association points out that the areas in which carding happens most often also happen to be highly diverse and low-income neighbourhoods. (CBC)

The police data also revealed people are much more likely to be stopped by police in the northeast in District 1 (4,749 incidents) in the city's core and District 5 (5,145) than they are in District 3 (1,837), a central area just north of the Bow River, or District 8 (2,601) at the city's south end.

The association said that raises the prospect of the police targeting minorities and low-income populations.

Carding vs. 'contact information forms'

Calgary police spokesman Kevin Brookwell said what officers do in this city is not, strictly speaking, "carding," which he describes as a term that "came out of Eastern Canada."

"It comes out of another jurisdiction where people directed people who didn't have ID to go to a police station," Brookwell said.

"They were given issued ID and then, moving forward, they were told any time police come to you, you have to show this card. So, absolutely, we do not do that. Never have, never will."

'We don't just randomly check people for ID. There has to be a reason and you have to be able to articulate that reason,' says Kevin Brookwell, a spokesman for the Calgary Police Service. (CBC)

Calgary police do stop people and ask them for ID and an explanation of what they're doing and why in some situations, Brookwell said, but require a valid legal reason to do so.

"We don't just randomly check people for ID," he said. "There has to be a reason and you have to be able to articulate that reason."

He also said the province is currently reviewing how long information collected through "contact information forms" can be retained once it has been determined to no longer be relevant to an ongoing investigation.

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