Edmonton police chief backs province-wide street check policy

Edmonton's police chief Rod Knecht is encouraging the government to develop a province-wide policy on street checks. He says the Edmonton Police Service re-worked its own street check policy earlier this year.

Edmonton police re-worked street check policy earlier this year, chief reveals

Edmonton police chief Rod Knecht supports a province-wide policy on street checks. (CBC)

Edmonton's police chief is backing plans to develop a province-wide policy on street checks.

And Rod Knecht says the Edmonton Police Service re-worked its own street check policy earlier this year.

He shared his views in a statement provided to CBC News this week, following a year-end interview.

"I think it is a great idea that all Alberta police services have the same policies with respect to police checks," said Knecht, noting that is currently not the case.

"I would suggest the government, after some public consultations will be looking at a single street check policy for the province that does not negatively impact on community policing and interacting with the public."

Knecht met with Alberta Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley last week to talk about the street check issue, he said.

Last month, CBC News learned the province has set up a working group to develop provincial guidelines for street checks. Consultations with community groups will begin in the new year, said Ganley's office.

A street check, or what many critics call carding, is the police practice of randomly stopping, questioning and documenting people without cause.

'Our officers must follow the Charter'

Figures provided by Edmonton police show officers conducted an average of 26,000-plus street checks per year between 2011 and 2014.

The stops have increasingly come under fire by a variety of critics who say they violate human rights and disproportionately stop people of colour.

Calgary police recently overhauled their police stop system, with the aim of providing greater public accountability and transparency.

An Edmonton police spokesperson said the service plans Wednesday to share details about changes already made to their own street check policy.

"The Charter of Rights and Freedoms is very clear on when we are required to warn an individual when we interact with them, and when an individual is legally bound to provide personal information. Our officers must follow the Charter," said Knecht in his statement.

Knecht said a recent public survey showed Edmontonians want more interaction with police and it is "absolutely important that police officers informally and formally engage the community we serve."

Annual street check audits

Andy McGrogan, president of the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police and chief of the Medicine Hat Police Service, said the provincial working group studying the issue was set up last February.

It arose out of inquiries in Ontario that led to new regulations on street checks, he said.

"So the minister came to us with a concern in relation to it and was trying to determine if we had the same issues in Alberta," McGrogan told CBC, adding he doesn't believe it's an issue in Medicine Hat.

The working group is made up of representatives from Alberta Justice, the solicitor general's office and police agencies across the province.
Andy McGrogan, president of the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police, said provincial guidelines could include annual audits of street checks by Alberta Justice.

McGrogan said one of the committee's suggested guidelines is to report all street checks to the justice ministry annually. The Medicine Hat Police Service has no objection to that proposal, he said.

That information would include ethnicity if it was collected during the stop, McGrogan added.

"They have a valuable purpose, but the balance always has to be: are we targeting, are we demonstrating bias-free policing," he said. "I think that is probably what the minister's concern is and it's a fair concern."

andrea.huncar@cbc.ca                        @andreahuncar


Andrea Huncar


Andrea Huncar reports on human rights and justice. Contact her in confidence at andrea.huncar@cbc.ca

with files from Zoe Todd