Carding gives cops more leeway than their regular police powers

By Arnold Auguste Wednesday May 20 2015 in Opinion
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By ARNOLD A. AUGUSTE, Publisher/Senior Editor

The police do not want to end carding because they say it is an important part of their effort to fight crime and keep the city safe.


The real reason they don’t want to stop carding, though, is that it gives them more latitude to stop, question and document people who they might not have reasonable cause to stop and question with the already immense powers and authority they have under the Criminal Code.


While they can stop and question people under the Criminal Code, they must have reasonable and probable cause to do so and will be guided by the Judges Rules.


The Judges Rules, which police forces in many English-speaking countries, including Canada and Jamaica, depend on for guidance, does allow for police to stop and question people but advises on when cautions must be given if the stop is to escalate into an arrest.


Carding, as it is practiced by the Toronto Police Service, goes much beyond the spirit of The Judges Rules. For example, an officer can stop and question an individual. However, guided by the Judges Rules, at the point the officer decides to arrest the individual, he or she must inform or caution them of their right not to respond to further questioning and also their right to legal representation.


Under carding, there are no such restrictions or protections. It is only if the person being questioned is going to be arrested will the Judges Rules apply. But, most people carded are not arrested. They are simply stopped, questioned and documented without a requirement that they must be told of their right not to speak with or provide information to the police.


They do have that right not to speak to the police but the police are under no obligation to inform them of that right. And, of course, the other question to consider is whether or not it is worth the risk to exercise that right not to speak to the police. It might not be a healthy choice.

The previous police service board tried to right these wrongs by placing controls on carding. But that is the policy former police chief Bill Blair refused to implement and, with the help of his good friend, Mayor John Tory, who placed himself on the board and removed members who supported those protections, left the old carding policy in place with even fewer protections than before.


Now, thanks to Tory and Blair people who are carded – especially those who are carded multiple times – could be excused for feeling like they are living in one of those police states we in Canada so like to condemn for their human rights violations. Cops can stop whoever they want, wherever, whenever and for whatever reason – or for no reason at all other than they just feel like it. And they can document that stop and place whatever information they gather into a police database for future use against those documented.


Did you know that at one time if a young Black man applied to become a police officer and he had been carded five or more times, he wouldn’t get the job because his name would show up as being known to police? I don’t know if they are still doing this. Some feel it was used as a way to keep Blacks, especially Black men, off the police force since everyone knew that carding was bogus.


Thanks to the Toronto Star, and its investigative reporters who uncovered documented evidence of the over-policing of this city’s Black community, the many stories from Black people and/or their children over the years of ill-treatment at the hands of the police got new legs.


But what is the reason for this? Why do police feel that Black people are more prone to committing crime than any other people to the point where they feel it is important to document and hold information on them for future use…just in case they commit a crime in the future?


A former police officer told of an incident years ago when someone lecturing to police officers said that if they stopped a Jamaican anywhere in the city they were likely to find a knife or other weapon on him. The suggestion, according to this former cop, seemed to have been that it was a safe bet that stopping any Jamaican would have produced reasons to lay charges.


Think about that for a while. And, while you are letting that bit of information sink in, remember this is from someone who is helping to train the cops.


By the way, for those of you who were not born in Jamaica and might be feeling a little more comfortable since the speaker focused on Jamaicans, remember that to most White people we all are Jamaicans if we are Black.


While this incident took place many years ago, who is to say that some of the cops listening to that lecture are not still on the job? Who is to say that some of them didn’t pass on that information to other cops – new partners, for example, or young recruits?


Just the thought that kind of thinking was shared with police officers – whenever it was – is very disturbing and could help to explain why Blacks are carded so many times more than Whites or other races or ethnicities.


Some have told of videos used to help train police officers which showed the police as White and the perpetrators as Black, thus reinforcing in the minds of police officers that Black people are the ones most involved in criminal activity.


Others have told of officers telling young cops to forget what they learned in police college and offering to teach them their version of what the streets are really like.


So, a young cop with this kind of training, could see a young Black man going home from the library with a ton of books under his arm and decide he could be concealing drugs or a weapon in those books. Whether or not that makes sense, under carding this cop could stop that young man, question and card – or document – him while under the Criminal Code he would need more than just his belief that all Black people are criminals. That information collected will then be placed in a police database for future reference or use against that youth.


Now do you see why the police do not want to end carding? It has nothing to do with keeping the city safe, it is to keep Blacks in their place, afraid of the cops and under constant surveillance.


When Mayor Tory put himself on the Toronto Police Service Board and used his influence to throw out the policy established by the previous board which would have placed certain curbs and controls on carding, he didn’t care how members of the Black community felt about the policy. And because he knew he had friends in the Black community who would support whatever he did, useful idiots, he concluded that he didn’t have to care.


So, Tory and Blair, who now wants to represent a riding in this city as a federal member of parliament for the Liberal Party (makes one want to join the Conservative Party or the NDP), in one stroke unraveled more than a year of the hard work of members of our community and police officers who tried so hard to bring some balance and fairness to this process of carding.


But that might have been a good thing. Trying to fix the carding policy might have been like, to borrow a common expression, putting lipstick on a pig.


Forget about fixing it or placing controls on it, let’s just get rid of it. The police already have enough powers to do their job protecting this city without having to resort to unconstitutional methods that border on the illegal.

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