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Carding rules get positive reviews, but Hamilton police union worried

Officers will have to tell people they stop they have the right to walk away under the proposed regulations and Hamilton's police union says that is a worrisome requirement.

Minister Yasir Naqvi announces changes to police carding and street checks

Provincial public safety minister Yasir Naqvi, seen in front of Hamilton Police Chief Glenn De Caire, said arbitrary street stops and any policing involving discrimination must end. He released regulations on "voluntary interactions" on Wednesday. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

Hamilton's police union head says bad guys could roam free under a proposed rule that would require officers let people they have the right to walk away from a street check interaction.

"I think people who are committing crimes or doing any wrong-doing are going to walk away, and good citizens are going to engage with police," said Clint Twolan, president of the Hamilton Police Association. 

The new up-front caution was one of several draft regulations that Ontario's public safety minister Yasir Naqvi announced Wednesday governing what he has called "voluntary interactions" with police on Wednesday.

Local police make special mention of that right to walk away in a brochure and app but Twolan said obliging officers to tell people about it up front will mean a "serious limitation' on being able to prevent crime using a street check. 

Naqvi's regulations centre on street checks or carding interactions where people who may not have done anything wrong are stopped by police, questioned and asked for their ID. Proposed new rules include terms on how long the information can be kept in a police database, guidelines for when someone can be approached and additional reports and safeguards like a receipt with the officer's name. 

Chief: 'We are focused on the relentless pursuit of offenders'

Hamilton Police Chief Glenn De Caire said the service will continue its pursuit of preventing and solving crime. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)
Hamilton Police Chief Glenn De Caire said the service will review the regulations and submit its response directly to the ministry. De Caire has previously said limiting or abolishing the practice will make Hamilton less safe. 

"We are focused on the relentless pursuit of offenders and will continue our work to prevent and solve crime as we balance the rights of individuals in line with the expectations of the public regarding their safety," he said in a statement. 

Hamilton Coun. Matthew Green, a vocal critic of street checks, said the biggest takeaway from the minister's announcement Wednesday was an acknowledgment of what was shared through public consultations this summer, including one Green convened in Hamilton

"There has been a problem in police interactions with communities," he said. "There was a recognition that the stories from people with lived experience were overwhelming in their accounts of Charter violations and unconstitutional police practices."

Coun. Terry Whitehead, who sits on the Hamilton Police Services Board, called the draft regulations a move toward more transparency and accountability for police — "a marked improvement from what we had." 

'We're public servants'

A copy of the Hamilton Police form used to compile and record personal information in "street checks," obtained by CBC Hamilton under a Freedom of Information request. (Hamilton Police Service)
Twolan said police unions across Ontario have "cautioned the ministers about the repercussions, as to what we believe are possible outcomes." But the officers will follow whatever changes come to the Police Services Act, he said.

"We're public servants; we're going to abide by the legislation," he said. "We're going to see where this goes." 

Among the proposed regulations, submitted Wednesday to the province's regulation registry for public comment: 

  • Under a "rights-based framework" for voluntary stops, police may approach a citizen based on a valid policing purpose, which Naqvi defined as detecting and investigating crime.
  • Police must explain the person has the right to walk away and must explain why the person has been stopped.
  • Officers must also provide written record to the citizen of interaction that includes information about the officer and how to access the police complaints system and access any information collected.
  • Police chiefs must also record and report to boards and government on how many stops have happened.

The anticipated regulations come after Naqvi, last week, said the province will not stand for any interactions between police and citizens that are "random" or "arbitrary." 

Ken Stone, a longtime Hamilton anti-racism activist and member of the Community Coalition Against Racism gave the minister's announcement a "preliminary thumbs-up."

"It seems he's moving the province towards the abolition of carding and back to police interactions with the public based on sound, investigative techniques," he said. "However, I am waiting to read the fine print."

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