Lethbridge police review of 'street checks' leads to more training, annual reports on practice

The Lethbridge Police Service is making changes following complaints about its practice of performing "street checks."

Freedom of information data shows black people in Lethbridge 9 times more likely to be stopped by police

Lawyer Miranda Hlady has been looking into the practice of street checks, which she refers to as "carding," since 2016. Her complaint to Lethbridge police into the practice helped instigate a review by the service. (Bryan Labby/CBC)

The Lethbridge Police Service is making changes following complaints about its practice of performing "street checks."

Defence lawyer Miranda Hlady, who practices in the southern Alberta city, instigated a review into street checks — which she refers to as "carding" — last year.

Her research into Lethbridge street checks started in 2016 when Hlady filed a freedom of information request with the LPS in response to a friend wondering why her black son was stopped by local police and questioned for no apparent reason.

The data Hlady received showed black people were nine times more likely to be stopped and asked by police to provide identification, while Indigenous people were five times more likely to be carded.

The data also showed that only 31 charges resulted from more than 1,000 cards filled out by Lethbridge police.

Annual report, more training for officers

On Monday, Lethbridge police Chief Robert Davis said the review of practice that followed the complaint uncovered some problems that are being addressed.

Davis said the service will produce an annual report on the practice and beef up training around street checks and ensure the quality of the data that's collected.

"We already provide an annual report on say, use of force and on pursuits, so it only makes sense to provide these statistics as well, in an annual report that we'll submit to the commission," he said.

Hlady said while annual reports on street checks is a start, Indigenous and black communities should be invited to become more involved with the police.

"What we'd like to see coming out of this process on the Lethbridge Police Commission is a mandated space for someone from one or both of these two groups to be part of our police commission," Hlady said.

"Lethbridge city council does not have the authority to stop carding, but they can mandate space on the police commission for racialized individuals."

Peter Deys, the chair of the Lethbridge Police Commission, said the selection process for the commission is an open process and anyone is welcome to apply.

Hlady also filed freedom of information requests for street check data and policies from police in other Alberta municipalities — Medicine Hat, Taber, Camrose and Lacombe. Only Lacombe has yet to respond to the request. 

Alberta Justice is working on creating provincial guidelines around street checks.

Davis said his force will follow the solicitor general's direction when those guidelines are released. 

With files from Lucie Edwardson