Researcher: Urvi Prajapati
What is street check or carding?
Street check also known as carding is a means of documenting the interactions police officers have with people on the streets who may not be under an investigation for a crime nor be a witness to a crime, and logging that information in a database.
Street checks have received many negative comments and attention from the general public everywhere in Ontario. London, being a smaller city when compared to Toronto, these checks are more noticeable and problematic for the locals. With the crime rates going up in the recent decades in order to ensure the safety of the citizens, the London police conducted these checks.
During 2014 and 2015 there were talks on banning or ending these street checks due to a lot of complaints. On August 31, 2015 the city of London held a consultation period where the locals could come and express their opinions on them. The consultation took place in two sections. The first section was a direct response of the public to three focus questions; while the other was a live documentation of the full group discussion.
The questions in the first session included: How would you define a street check? If a police officer stops an individual, asks them questions, and records their information, what rules do you think should be in place to govern these interactions? In order to protect people’s rights, what oversight can the government apply to ensure that these interactions are conducted properly? The answers to each of these questions were mainly negative and the outcome was that people wanted alternative solutions to the system. As well as limit the carding in the areas that had pre-existing crimes that may have taken place. The second session was an open microphone discussion from various speakers. They had a chance to express their thoughts and opinions on the system. As well as make possible suggestions to the government bodies. Some even suggested that the carding was done based on the profiles of the citizens. Some felt that individuals suffering from mental health were targeted more. While others felt that it was simply an act of harassment towards law abiding citizens. Therefore, it should be abolished in general.
After over two years of such consultation and meetings, the province has finally filed final regulations on the collections and documentation of the information; also known as carding or street checks. On July 1, 2016 “sections 1-4, 10, 12 and 13 of the regulation come into force, allowing police service boards and police services time to develop the appropriate policy, operational and database changes necessary to implement the changes”. In the fall of 2016 recruits started receiving training according to the new regulations. Finally, in January, 2017
- “Regulations are fully implemented.
- An independent reviewer begins a two-year review.
- The ministry launches a multi-year study to assess the impact of collecting identifying information as well as the impact of the new regulations.”
As of January, 2017 the following is to be implemented. These are directed facts and regulations from the Ministry of Ontario.
- “Officers must inform the person of their right to not provide identifying information.
- Officers must provide a reason for requesting identifying information. The reason cannot be:
- that the person declined to answer a question or attempted to end the interaction
- based on race or solely because that individual is in a high-crime location
- Officers must offer a document that includes the officer’s name and badge number and information on how to contact the office of the Independent Police Review Director if there are concerns about the interaction.
- Officers must keep detailed records about each interaction.
- Failure to comply with the regulation will be a Code of Conduct violation for police officers.
To ensure police can continue to do their work safely, the regulations allow exemptions in some specific situations, for example:
- If the person is legally required to provide information (e.g. during a traffic stop)
- If the person is under arrest or being detained, or when the officer is executing a warrant
- If complying with a specific aspect of the regulation would compromise an ongoing investigation or compromise safety
- If the officer has a reasonable suspicion that the interaction is necessary to their investigation of an offence that has been committed or that the officer reasonably suspects will be committed.”
The carding system is important in criminal investigations; however, in the past much of it was done on baseless grounds. The new regulations will not only protect citizens but also provide the police with the right information.