Toronto police carding an 'incredibly effective tool'

A carding system used by Toronto police to gather information can be "disenfranchising" but is also an effective policing tool, says a deputy chief.

Deputy chief Peter Sloly says information gathering helps solve major cases

A carding system used by Toronto police to gather information can be "disenfranchising" but is also an effective policing tool, says a deputy chief.

Beginning this month, Toronto police have started issuing a receipt — also known as a Form 307 — to people they stop in public. 

The police checks often lead to the gathering of information — such as a person's height, weight, hair and skin colour — and it's hoped the receipts will add an element of accountability to the police force.

"[Police checks] can disenfranchise young people, it can make people feel like they're being unfairly targeted if we're not clear in our explanation and transparent in our actions around what we do," said deputy chief Peter Sloly.

Last week, police held a closed community meeting in the Mount Dennis neighbourhood, near Jane and Eglinton, in addition to a virtual town hall that included 21,000 people. During those meetings, police discussed why they believe carding is an essential tool.

Speaking with Metro Morning host Matt Galloway on Wednesday, Sloly defended the controversial practice, which many in the communities being targeted say is a form of racial profiling.

"There is a disproportionality in some types of investigations," said Sloly. "The key is, you can focus on the numbers to make sure there isn't an element of racism or bias because that exists in human nature and therefore it must exist in policing."

When asked by Galloway about what criteria police use when stopping someone, Sloly said a "constellation of facts should give rise to some suspicion," including anything from a person "doing something strange" to obvious drug use.

Still, Sloly said an "overwhelming" number of interactions between police and the public happen after the community calls for assistance.

"Out of some of those interactions that are community initiated we capture information that goes into databases that can help us to solve or prevent crimes in the future," said Sloly.

"We're trying to make sure the value goes up and the cost goes down and we have from those interactions solved major cases – sexual assaults, abuses of children, horrible multiple shootings have all come out of that practice."