Police Services Board Chair Alok Mukherjee says carding unjustified
Mukherjee makes his feelings about carding clear in new editorial
There is "no justification" for the practice of police carding to continue, Toronto Police Services Board Chair Alok Mukherjee says in a new editorial, in which he calls the practice "deeply offensive."
Mukherjee's comments appear in an opinion piece published in Friday's Toronto Star. In it, he writes that he came to his conclusions about carding after two "random contacts" in less than 24 hours with people who said they had been stopped by police and carded several times.
"I believe the Toronto police services board must now declare unequivocally that information generated from informal contacts with members of the public, which are not related to any criminal investigation or likelihood of a criminal investigation, must not be recorded in any police database," Mukherjee writes.
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"I understand that such information will be recorded in the memo book of the officer who made the contact, but it should remain there."
Debate over the practice — in which police stop and question residents and then record details of the interaction in a database even when no criminal activity took place — has gripped the city in recent months. In January, then-Toronto Police chief Bill Blair placed a moratorium on the practice.
However, new Chief Mark Saunders insisted in a recent interview with CBC News that carding is legal and "does enhance community safety."
On Wednesday, a newly formed group of prominent Torontonians called Concerned Citizens to End Carding spoke out against the practice.
In his editorial, Mukherjee acknowledges that carding has been a part of police work in this city "for a very long time and continues to bedevil relations between racialized residents of this city and the police today."
But the fact that information taken from residents who are not suspected of wrongdoing then sits in a database "to be used in ways that could jeopardize their safety and future is deeply offensive. There is no justification for this practice to continue."
Mukherjee concludes by calling on officials to "get on with" the process of ensuring that information gleaned from residents in "non-arrest, non-detention situations" doesn't make its way into a permanent police database.
"At least here in Toronto, let us say clearly that we will not let this city turn into a surveillance society against those who live here because of their race, ethnicity, skin colour, age or socio-economic status," Mukherjee writes. "That is not consistent with the values we cherish through our motto, 'Diversity Our Strength.'"