Mayor John Tory says he’ll seek the permanent cancellation of the police practice of “carding,” but the Toronto Police Association is cautioning that such a move may impact public safety.
On Sunday, Tory announced his intentions to scrap the controversial practice at the next Police Services Board meeting on June 18.
Carding — which has been on hold in the city since January — is the act of recording information received during community engagements, allowing officers to routinely stop people in the streets and collect information about them.
“The issue of community engagements, or ‘carding’ as it has become known, has eroded public trust to a level that is clearly unacceptable,” Tory said.
“As mayor it is up to me to do whatever I can do to restore that trust.”
In a release issued after Tory’s announcement, the Toronto Police Association (TPA) said the decision comes at a time when the number of shooting victims in Toronto has spiked 74 per cent, shooting injuries are up 76 per cent (as of June 1, 2015) and overall crime in Toronto’s downtown core — in 52 Division — has increased 18 per cent (as of April 30, 2015).
“Carding is a proven, pro-active police investigative strategy that reduces, prevents and solves crime,” the release said. “Our members will continue to work within the law and procedures to ensure public safety. We need clear and articulate direction from the (Toronto Police Services Board) in regards to how our members are expected to proactively gather intelligence information while engaging with the community.”
Mike McCormack, president of the TPA, told CityNews he’s concerned with how officers will gather information during investigations if carding is shelved permanently.
“The concern for my membership is …what is the direction going to be on public engagement, and how do we do the investigative piece?” McCormack said. “Is it going to jeopardize public safety? I guess that’s the long-term question.”
Tory said he believes police officers can do their jobs through stronger relationships with the public, greater transparency, and better training, “but carding wont get us there.”
The move comes after Coun. Michael Thompson, former politician Roy McMurtry, former Chief Justice of Ontario Gordon Cressy and former Toronto mayor Barbara Hall spoke out against the practice on Wednesday.
Up until the beginning of 2015, police officers would routinely stop people in the streets and collect personal information. The practice was heavily criticized for targeting black men in the Jane and Finch area.
— andrea piunno (@cityandreap) June 7, 2015
Alok Mukerjee, chair of the Police Services Board, had previously come out in favour of discontinuing the practice. He said Tory told him of his decision in a phone call prior to the media conference on Sunday.
“We spoke and he said ‘There’s been a big price we have paid in terms of trust and the right thing to do is to put a ban, permanently, on carding.’
“I said ‘Mr. Mayor, you have made my day,'” Mukherjee said. “Let’s go with it and we’ll support you and bringing such a motion forward.”
Tory said he would also examine what is to be done with information previously collected during community engagements.
The mayor had said last week that Toronto police chief Mark Saunders assured him that information derived from past carding encounters would be kept in a separate, secure database with very limited access provisions.
“I will also be seeking to further the work already done by Chief Saunders with a goal of putting in place strict measures dealing with the treatment of collected data,” Tory said on Sunday. “I think most of this — as it related to random encounters with innocent citizens — could, in fact, be eliminated.”
With files from Andrea Piunno and Amanda Ferguson