Carding undermines effective community policing

By Lennox Farrell Wednesday January 14 2015 in Opinion
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Profiling is a practice, necessary in effective policing. Objectively, it is based on factors which could include: police observation of crime committed; police receiving information on crime being committed; and of necessity, apprehending suspects based on physical characteristics as possible age, height, size, gender, race, etc.


Reasonable law-abiding residents and citizens support or would support this aspect of police profiling. In fact, without positive public support and encouragement, policing would be ineffectual. That is because, at its core, maintaining effective law and order is community-based and therefore community-supported policing. Moreover, if the description, “police profiling” were an encyclopedia, “racial profiling” would be a volume in that encyclopedia, and “carding”, a chapter in that volume.


Carding is “bad policing” because it is antithetical to the effective policing that is the result of community-friendly policing. Carding and its nursing-mother, racial profiling, furthermore alienates communities, Black communities. Especially for our youth, such policing creates a sense of antipathy towards policing; becoming distrustful of and hostile to police. Can this type of “policing” ironically make communities even more vulnerable to the potential criminal activity “good policing” seeks to stem?


For this reason, an effective representative of any police force is an officer who is courteous, throughout. One who without having to be asked and asked again, provides valid reasons for stopping residents. Being official, not officious, affirms for both parties their essential partnership in law abiding. This reminds me of an experience my spouse had several decades ago. She had been arrested – some called it payback – in the Jane-Finch mall, accused of shoplifting; not there and then, but two weeks earlier in Scarborough. When approached by two officers, she at first thought it was some type of reality TV show.


Reality checked in brutally when she was handcuffed and ducked into the back seat of a cruiser. As she recounted later, the only other occasion on which she had wept so bitterly was on the death, a previous Christmas, of her father, Pupa. As legal matters turned out, she was acquitted and following a lawsuit by us, was compensated. This is because, on the Sunday she had ostensibly shoplifted, she had instead been at a church banquet on the Danforth. There, in addition to a priest and a bartender who recalled having to get her fruit juices (we don’t use alcohol), more than 80 other women, including a Provincial MPP, confirmed her presence there at the time and date when the crime was supposed to have occurred.


What she also recalled was not only her shame at being accused, the shock of being handcuffed and the remarks of one officer in transit to the station, but the attitude, too, of an older officer who addressed her, not with impudent familiarity by her first name, but as, “Mrs. Farrell, if you are not the person, things will work out.”


So, what is carding? What is racial profiling? And what are some points pro and con? Before considering these, does anyone ever admit to racial profiling, period? Does it exist as unofficial policy without an official name? It is officially supported because it is based on data that “confirms” assumptions that Black males commit more crimes in certain areas than do others. Since this data validates the policy, qualifying statements by officials against the practice are, more than likely, palliative and political.


More specifically about the above, arguments supportive of racial profiling assert that Black males commit a disproportionate percentage of street crimes related, for example, to illegal drug-dealing, theft, vandalism, etc. Therefore, it makes good sense to stop and frisk them while they are found driving, walking, loitering around public housing complexes where they do not live, and in other areas and at times considered “suspect”. This dilemma is summed up thus: “racial profiling is not so much racism as it is sound police practice, unfortunately misinterpreted”. It is therefore effectively economical and practical to focus on Black males.


If that’s the pro, what’s the main con against racial profiling? Data integrity! For example, is it not to be expected if any group, for whatever reason it is singled out disproportionately for police attention, that any data subsequently incriminating them would also be disproportionately skewed? Again, what is at stake is the integrity of the data; the data that justifies “racial profiling”. Furthermore, as it is commonly known, youth (and others) of various races use illegal substances. Therefore, if the objective is fighting crime wherever, and by whomever, does it not make sense to tackle all “suspects” with equal diligence and frequency?


Again, there is no community that would compromise its safety by opposing policing that is just, not justified; that is, policing that ferrets out wrongdoers regardless of who they are; not policing that selectively seeks out some based on skin colour; thereby placing them sans humanite.

The point bears repetition: if one group is singled out, stopped and searched more often than others, any subsequent data used to incriminate those singled out amounts to fantasy and fallacy mutually justifying each other.


Ultimately, racial profiling is akin to a national index indirectly used by the politicians and the public, to peg the powerlessness of Black communities. The implication is that racial profiling is here to stay, necessarily amended according to communal pressures and cyclical outbursts; a practice that is improper but “tolerable”.


Finally, carding. It is almost a form of divination: that is, a police practice in which the law is broken to anticipate any possibility of its being broken in the future. In other words, carding occurs because, while according to Canada’s Constitution all Canadians, including Black males are considered free, under police jurisdictions, all Canadians are considered free, but Black Canadian males are at large.


To be continued: On racial profiling issues, are Toronto’s Black churches, island organizations, etc., AWOL?

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