Toronto police board weighs new carding rules

Toronto's Police Services Board could approve new policies governing how police officers can stop and interview people, and how they must conduct themselves while engaging in the practice of carding.

Police force will be able to keep information previously gathered from carding, angering critics

The Toronto Police Services Board is set to vote on new rules governing the controversial police practice of carding next week. (Mike Heenan/CBC)

Toronto's Police Services Board could approve new policies governing how police officers can stop and interview people, and how they must conduct themselves while engaging in the practice of carding.

The controversial police practice of stopping people in public and collecting personal information has prompted backlash across the GTA, with critics pointing out that people in racialized communities are more likely to be stopped than others.

In March, the province banned random carding stops and demanded officers keep written records of their exchanges with the public.

The police board's new policy, designed to comply with Ontario's regulations, contains several more rules that officers would have to adhere to.

Toronto police could not card individuals if, for instance, "any part of" the officer's reason for carding them "is that the officer perceives the individual to be within a particular racialized group," with some exceptions.

Police officers could still stop people of a particular ethnic background for carding if they are looking for a specific person and know that person's ethnicity, the policy states.

Police could also card people belonging to a racialized group if they have other identifying information in addition to their ethnic background, such as a physical description of the person, their location, their vehicle, their associates, or their behaviour. Age and gender would not be sufficient grounds for carding.

No more 'arbitrary' carding

Under the proposed regulations, Toronto police would not be able to collect information through carding if "the attempted collection is done in an arbitrary way."

Police would have to show that carding wasn't arbitrary by explaining their reasons for stopping a particular individual. Certain reasons would be insufficient to allow carding:

  • If the person doesn't answer a question they're not legally required to answer.
  • If the person is trying to stop interacting with a police officer under legal circumstances.
  • If the person is "present in a high crime location."

If someone is stopped and carded by police, the police would have to explain why they're being carded, as well as informing them that they're not required to provide identifying information, with some exceptions for certain situations.

Toronto police would have to receive new training before conducting carding stops under the new policy.

In keeping with previous Toronto Police Service policy, officers would also have to provide receipts to anyone who gets stopped for carding.

Holding on to old carding data

Police will still hold onto historical data collected from carding under the proposed policy, although that information will be restricted to authorized users.

Coun. Shelley Carroll, who sits on the Toronto Police Services Board, said it's important to keep data from past carding stops despite calls from critics who say it should be destroyed.
Coun. Shelley Carroll says data from old carding stops should be kept, but with strong restrictions on how it can be accessed. (CBC)

"The police service's cold case unit has said that they need the data to be stored somewhere, should they need to go back to it," she said.

Police officers will need "a very good reason to go looking" for information in the archived carding data, added Carroll.

The chief of police would have to provide the Toronto Police Services Board and the public with quarterly report detailing how many requests for access were received and approved, as well as details about those requests.

Concerns over historical data

The decision to keep old carding data is problematic for Desmond Cole, a vocal critic of carding by Toronto police.

"The police are still going to be able to access this data," said the freelance journalist and activist.
Activist Desmond Cole, a prominent critic of carding by Toronto police, says police should have to destroy data collected in previous carding stops. (Martin Trainor/CBC News)

"They shouldn't be allowed to access this data, because they should never have been allowed to collect it in the first place."

Cole is also concerned about the possibility that Toronto police have already shared old carding data with other law enforcement agencies.

"You can say, 'We're not doing this anymore, we've stopped collecting the data,'" said Cole.

"But you're not telling us about who else you've shared that data with in the meantime, and that's an incredibly important question that needs to be answered."

The policy, called "Regulated Interactions with the Community and the Collection of Identifying Information," is the result of "an extremely comprehensive process that included detailed legal analysis, extensive community consultation and a thorough consideration of the operational realities of policing," wrote board chair Andy Pringle in a report prepared before the meeting.

The Toronto Police Services Board will vote on the new policy on Thursday, Nov. 17.

With files from Lorenda Reddekopp