Headlines

Hamilton Police carded the same aboriginal man 14 times in 1 year

All but two of the individuals stopped in police “street check" encounters more than five times in a year are visible minorities.

Visible minorities are far more likely to be street checked multiple times in the same year than white people

Kayonne Christy reads demands at last December's march called "Black, Brown, Red Lives Matter," which called for an end to carding and the police database records kept from the non-criminal interactions in Hamilton. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

A 25-year-old aboriginal man was stopped on the street by Hamilton police in 2012. And then he was stopped again. And again. The same man was stopped 14 times throughout the year.

In 2013, a 29-year-old black man was "street checked" 13 times.

In 2010, a man, considered by officers to be of Middle Eastern descent, was stopped and questioned nine times.  

New information obtained from city police by CBC Hamilton provides a clearer picture of how carding — which has already been shown to disproportionately affect the city's visible minority communities — can also have disproportionate impacts on individuals in those communities.

The new data of people carded shows that visible minorities are far more likely than white people to be stopped multiple times in the same year.

The numbers show:

  • Of the 46 people stopped more than five times in one year in street checks, 44 of them were recorded in the police database as visible minorities, either black, aboriginal, "Mid East" or "S. Asian/E. Indian." 
  • Of the 134 people carded more than three times in the same year, just eight of them were white.

This is the first time data — obtained through Freedom of Information laws — has been released that shows how many times the same individuals were street checked in the same year in Hamilton. 

Hamilton police stop and question thousands of people on the street each year. More than 9,000 interactions over the last five years have been filed in the police database as street checks, even if the person has not done anything wrong.

Sometimes officers fill out a physical "street check form" on the person, the Toronto version of which got the practice known as "carding" there.

This new police data set shows that more than 300 of those interactions were street checks done on the same person multiple times during the year.

If just the years 2010, 2012 and 2013 are looked at, all those who were stopped for a street check more than five times in a year, were listed in the police database as being black, aboriginal, "Mid East" or "S. Asian/E. Indian."

A selection from police data showing that one 29-year-old black man was carded by Hamilton Police 13 times in one year, 2013. The data was released in response to a Freedom of Information request from CBC Hamilton. (Hamilton Police Service)

In 2014, an anomaly year with a small number of street checks reported, two white men were carded more than five times. For 2011, the police data didn't include how many street checks were done on the same individual.

It's not known if the 29-year-old man stopped four times in 2010 is the same as a 32-year-old man stopped multiple times in 2013, because the service did not compile the totals for the five years together.

'The pieces of the puzzle'

Hamilton Police say street checks help them solve crime, but say they don't have direct data to show the usefulness of individual street checks.

"The problem is at the time you're doing this, you have no idea that you're actually speaking to a person who later will face charges of murder," Hamilton Police Chief Glenn De Caire said Wednesday during an interview on CHML. "How do we know what's important information until the pieces of the puzzle are all put together?"

A presentation by Deputy Chief Eric Girt in July had already included data showing that black people are stopped, questioned and documented in police street checks at a disproportionate rate compared to the population in Hamilton. 

When restricting that comparison just to downtown, as police suggest is more appropriate, the rate of black residents being street checked is still disproportionate, though not as much. 

The service touts the street check practice as a means of officers getting to know neighbourhoods and stopping crime before it begins.

But the practice has been decried by civil rights advocates as a violation of Charter rights to privacy and a practice that leaves room for bias against vulnerable people and visible minorities.  

The data covers the years since the creation of the ACTION team, largely focused on downtown.

The "street check" practice is under review province-wide by the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, which has submitted regulations for public comment ongoing through Dec. 12.

In the radio interview, De Caire said he and other police chiefs are hoping for an extension to that deadline respond to draft provincial regulations, in order to supply "supporting evidence" to back up their assertion that street checks are a crucial – and effective – practice.

"Let's be honest. We don't actually individually track that this arrest and this investigation was solved by that individual piece of information that came from a street check situation," he said Wednesday. "But now that the focus is on that, maybe we need to go back and look at some of that and gather that data in a different way, and make sure that we have the supporting evidence."

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the gender of the aboriginal person street checked by police 14 times in 2012.
    Dec 01, 2015 4:04 PM ET

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