Peel police under scrutiny for controversial carding practice

It will take years to repair the “damaged relationship” between Peel Regional Police and youth thanks to the controversial practice of carding, says a Mississauga youth advocate, who adds embracing technology may help repair relationships.

'Youth are very disillusioned by the police force,' advocate tells conference

Aanchal Mogla says she'd like to see Peel police create an app where people can report their interactions with officers, both good and bad, to build trust. (CBC News)

It will take years to repair the "damaged relationship" between Peel Regional Police and youth because of the controversial practice of carding, a Mississauga youth advocate says.

But embracing technology — and sometimes taking off the uniform — should be among the first steps police take toward repairing those connections, according to Aanchal Mogla, who works with disenfranchised youth.

Peel police held a symposium Saturday to talk with local youth and advocates about the issues surrounding random street checks, a system that its opponents say unfairly targets young minorities.  Police, however, have defended it as a useful tool for making contacts during investigations.

There is a problem with stopping innocent people.- Knia Singh, anti-carding advocate

"I think youth are very disillusioned by the police force and they find it a very daunting relationship that they have with them," Mogla said.

But since teenagers speak the language of technology, that's how police should reach out to them, Mogla said. She suggested the force create an app for residents to rate and report their interactions — both positive and negative — with police offcers. 

"People will feel more capable of expressing what's going on in their community without the fear of having to go into a police station," she said.

Will random stops end?

Mogla also suggested that officers in schools not always wear their uniforms, because she said it could make them appear more approachable.

Peel police say the recommendations from the conference will be logged and analyzed, but they could not say when any changes might take place. Police Chief Jennifer Evans did sit in on the discussion.

That signalled a positive change that indicates the police force may be more willing to listen to community, said Knia Singh, the president of the Osgoode Society Against Institutional Injustice. 

But the real test, he said, will be whether police stop random street checks that he argues are often racially biased.

"There is no problem with investigating crime, but there is a problem with stopping innocent people," Singh told CBC News.

Peel Regional Police Chief Jennifer Evans says the force will analyze the recommendations brought forward at the forum. (CBC)

Officers are not supposed to randomly stop people, according to a police spokeswoman. Instead, police should be performing checks when they're walking the beat in an area that's seen a spike in crime or is in the middle of an active investigation, Const. Lilly Fitzpatrick said.

There are consequences for those officers who do not follow those guidelines, the chief told the conference.

Singh said he wants to make sure that those consequences are regularly enforced. And he also wants the chief to commit to meeting with youth who have been randomly carded in order to understand how the experience affected them.

The chief of police for Peel Region promised Saturday she would do that.