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Activists push Hamilton Police board to stop carding/street checks

Hamilton's police chief on Thursday is expected to address concerns raised last month about privacy issues and racial bias in the service's on-the-street policing tactics.

'Police depend on people's lack of information about the law, on their vulnerability, to do their work'

Black, Brown and Red Lives Matter supporters react during a discussion about street checks at a Hamilton Police Services board meeting in June. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

When a person is under arrest, police read him or her a list of rights, like the right to remain silent.

But "law-abiding citizens who are being detained are not told their rights" and should be, say activists opposed to street check/carding interactions. 

- Black, Brown, Red Lives Matter position on street checks/carding

That's one disparity activists highlight in a list of criticisms of police practices and demands for reforms they sent Monday to the Hamilton Police Service's oversight board, which will meet Thursday.

Board members, including the mayor and two Hamilton councillors, will hear a response from Hamilton's police chief to concerns raised last month about privacy issues and racial bias in the service's on-the-street proactive policing tactics.

The activists contend the street checks practice disproportionately affects the "general working class, homeless persons, and persons of colour." 

"The crux of the problem, however, is that its targets are people who are not under investigation or arrest," they say.

Among other recommendations, the activists urge board members to: 

  • End carding.
  • Require police to use more specific terms and justification for stopping/questioning people.
  • Commission academic studies every two years on the experience of people who are stopped by police for purposes of tracking whether the practice has ended and tracking police interactions.

The activists, many of whom belong to a group called "Black, Brown, Red Lives Matter" have been demanding Hamilton Police Service end carding and destroy the database of records collected in noncriminal interactions with members of the public, since at least December.

They also want Hamilton Police to begin formally keeping race-based statistics for purposes of tracking the incidence of racial profiling, and to conduct public know-your-rights education campaigns about a person's right to walk away from a noncriminal street stop. (The service added this to its brochure and app in March after meeting with the activists.)

Thursday's meeting follows the group's presentation at last month's meeting by Hamilton nurse Gary Fondevilla. Chief Glenn De Caire promised the board he'd bring answers to this month's meeting, coming up Thursday at 2 p.m. 

He said he'd give an overview of the training officers get, the laws that govern their interactions with people on the street, the "articulable cause" for street stops and what information is collected and recorded from interactions with citizens on the street.

He also said he would bring "definitions" of the terms that have led to some confusion around the province as police services respond to questions from lawmakers and the public about whether their practices resemble Toronto's.

A Toronto report from 2012 equated "street checks" in neighbouring jurisdictions to "carding."  Hamilton Police did between 3,000 and 5,500 street checks each year between 2010 and 2013.

Provincial leaders are this summer conducting a province-wide review of the street check/carding practice that came under fire in recent years in Toronto for what critics call a disproportionate impact on black and brown young men. 

kelly.bennett@cbc.ca | @kellyrbennett

Clarifications

  • This story has been changed from its original version to reflect that some of the group's demands are not restricted to noncriminal street stops.
    Jul 22, 2015 1:35 PM ET

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story misstated the frequency with which the activist group is asking for academic review of the experience of being stopped by police.
    Jul 21, 2015 9:58 AM ET

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