Criminal Law

If race wasn't an issue, carding would be an effective policing tool

Toronto criminal lawyer Roots Gadhia says it’s positive that Toronto’s police chief has suspended the controversial practice of carding “until further notice” because of the racial issues it raised.

“While the practice of carding can be an effective method of policing, it’s unfortunate that many officers haven’t been able to use it in a fair and just manner,” she tells AdvocateDaily.com.

Chief Bill Blair ordered the indefinite suspension on Jan. 1, according to a spokesman for Toronto Police Service, says the CBC.

Carding refers to a policing practice that allows officers to stop people on the street, ask them questions and collect personal information, describes the article.

While there has been intense public criticism of the practice, Toronto police have consistently defended carding, arguing it is an "effective tool" in making communities safer, says the public broadcaster.

“Members of the public recently called on the police board to end the practice, citing numerous studies and even a board-sanctioned report that found carding policies generally tend to discriminate against visible minorities,” says the article.

Last spring, the force's carding policy was amended to limit when officers can card a citizen; it also required officers to provide a record of the transaction to the person they have carded, says the CBC.

Gadhia says the problem isn’t in fact with the practice of carding itself, but rather with the way it is implemented. She says that if police officers are properly trained, they should be able to understand criminal activity in any neighbourhood and be able to draw reasonable inferences from questionable behaviour that criminal activity could potentially be taking place.

“I think police officers should be given an opportunity to affect their policing methods in a way that is just and appropriate in a free and democratic society,” she says.

“However when it's clear that the policing technique and method that's being utilized is effectively governed by race as opposed to reasonable and probable grounds objectively verified, then we have a problem. Any subjective racial belief that certain groups are more likely to commit offences becomes an untenable policing method.”

Gadhia notes that if the statistics didn't completely show that race is in fact the great motivator for these carding policies, carding would actually be an effective tool.

“But it's unfortunate that the prejudices of many officers on the streets prevent this effective tool from being utilized properly,” she says.

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