By TOM GODFREY
Criticism has been fast and furious by community members against a draft report under review by the Toronto Police Services Board to address racial profiling and carding.
The draft, if approved, will require officers to inform citizens of their rights whenever they are stopped, including telling them they have the right to walk away.
It seeks to “eliminate prohibited profiling, and or bias” in police contacts with the public, increase officer training and it holds Chief Bill Blair accountable through oversight and public reporting systems.
“It still does not stop the problem,” lawyer Munyonzwe Hamalengwa said of the draft document. “This is like putting old wine in new bottles.”
He said most people are nervous when pulled over by police and many do not know what their rights are.
“This is not going to stop racial profiling,” Hamalengwa said. “The practice will continue in another form under another name.”
Prominent community lawyer Peter Rosenthal said the draft is lacking in specifics.
“Any general investigation of people simply because they live in high-crime areas should be absolutely prohibited,” Rosenthal told Share. “If people are randomly interrogated it makes them feel that they are living in an occupied territory.”
He said officers are not allowed to start a conversation to elicit information unless they have reasonable grounds to suspect that the person has knowledge of a particular crime that is being investigated.
The only way the Toronto Police can regain some community confidence is by announcing and following a policy that does not include initiating conversations unless they have reasonable suspicions, he said.
Kingsley Gilliam, of the Black Action Defence Committee (BADC), is also shaking his head.
“This draft does not go far enough,” Gilliam said. “It has to be a cease-and-desist order to satisfy us.”
The draft was prepared by lawyer Frank Addario who last week handed it over to the Board for study.
Addario said it is time “to press the reset button on community contacts”.
“Giving people information about their rights is not inconsistent with effective policing,” Addario told Share. “The Board intends to measure the effectiveness of its new policy at regular intervals.”
Board Chair Alok Mukherjee said the proposal balances the needs of the community and that of police.
“It balances the needs of policing with respect of people’s rights,” Mukherjee said. “Police have a responsibility to inform people of their rights and tell them that they have the right to walk away.”
The Service has been under fire from the community for the racially profiling and carding of Blacks in many at-risk neighbourhoods.
The BADC has launched a $200 million class action lawsuit against Chief Blair and the Board in regards to the alleged racial profiling and carding of members of the community.
A similar $125 million lawsuit has also been filed against Peel Regional Police, former Chief Mike Metcalfe and several officers.
Both actions are proceeding before the courts.
The draft, if adopted, will enable Blair to set policy regarding the collection, retention, use and disclosure of personal information and to ensure that Community Safety Notes (CSN) (otherwise referred to as carding) are only prepared as required.
“The Service will use the quality of interactions and information gathered to measure performance and productivity of individual members of the Service,” the draft said.
A meeting will be held on April 8 to gather public feedback on the policy. It will take place at 6 p.m. in the auditorium of police headquarters at 40 College Street.
The board hopes to finalize the policy by April 10 in advance of the summer, when most street checks occur.