'Time for action' on carding, police chief Larkin says

Waterloo Region police chief Bryan Larkin says more needs to be done to address the practice of carding - or street checks - after data from the force shows black individuals are stopped at a rate much higher than the general population demographics.

Police data shows black people are stopped at disproportionately high rate

Statistics gathered over ten years in Waterloo Region suggest a disproportionate number of police street checks are of African-Canadians. (CBC)

Waterloo Regional Police Chief Bryan Larkin says the time to talk about the practice of carding is over and it is now time to act.

"I'm tired of talk. This is something that's been going on in policing since I started … it's time for action," Larkin said in an interview Friday.

"The numbers are what they are. I can't change them," Larkin said. "But what I can do moving forward is look to improve relations and look to change the way we do business and so I'm going to hit this head on. It's not an easy task. It's a complex task, it raises lots of emotion both internally and externally, but it's time to move forward. We're in 2016 and enough is enough."

Black individuals stopped at higher rate

Larkin was responding to reports this week that police here carded black individuals at a disproportionately high rate compared to the general population.

Data sent to CBC News from the police shows that 63,697 street checks were done by officers between Jan. 1, 2005 and Dec. 31, 2015

Of those, 5,800 were of black individuals, or 9.1 per cent of all checks.

Bryan Larkin, chief of police, Waterloo Regional Police Service. (Jackie Sharkey/CBC)

The 2011 National Household Survey found Waterloo region had a population of 469,935. Black individuals made up 10,485 of the residents, or 2.23 per cent.

Larkin said he cannot deny black residents of Waterloo region have been stopped at a higher level than others.

"I'm not naive as the chief to think that although we have a procedure, potentially from time to time that line is crossed," he said.

New rules coming into effect

The province has introduced new rules that say officers cannot card individuals. A report to the police services board this week said officers will still be able to talk to people on the street if they are investigating a crime, but they will not be able to collect identifying information about an individual just because they are part of a particular racialized group "unless certain other and legit conditions exist."

In an interview with CBC Kitchener-Waterloo in June 2015, Larkin said to his knowledge, street checks were not an issue in the region.

"We have not had any specific complaints or any direct complaints," he said at the time. "From time to time, there are concerns around police engagement, police interaction, the need to do more, the need to understand more, which I support.

Police have until January 1 to develop a policy regarding when officers stop people to talk to them and what information is gathered. The information collected also cannot be retained longer than is reasonably necessary.

Larkin said the new rules are a good start.

"I think the new regulation puts a very clear structure around that, which is positive," he said.