In more than a year since a Toronto Star report found police officers in this city are stopping and cataloguing Black males in much higher numbers than the general population, the Toronto Police Service (TPS) has yet to respond substantively.
In the wake of the Star report, “Known to Police”, the Toronto Police Services Board had put forward a motion that would require the police chief to report every three months on this practice, also called carding, as well as speak to any apparent discriminatory practices.
But the board has now delayed implementation of its directive and the city’s auditor general has put on hold an expected review of the police carding practice. The auditor general’s reasoning is that since TPS is now conducting its own review it would be necessary to wait for at least 12 months after that review for its own assessment. But that assessment, if and when it does come from the auditor general’s office, may not look at figures beyond the results coming out of the upcoming police review and subsequent policy changes.
While officials dither, Black men, in particular, are continuing to be terrorized by this discriminatory practice which TPS top officials refuse to acknowledge, despite the hard numbers revealed in the investigation by the Star, as well as a mass of anecdotal evidence.
In a recent virtual town hall meeting, Deputy Chief Peter Sloly has been quoted as saying: “The primary use of that (carding) information is in case there is a criminal offence that happens down the road and that information might be relevant to solving it or in case that information might help us to identify suspects that are taking part in criminal activity.”
What does that even mean? Does it mean that Black youth are expected to commit crimes anyway, so the police are being proactive in getting all their names and information in their system so it will be easier to find them if or when they do commit a crime? Because that is what this sounds like to us. If it is not, Sloly has some explaining to do.
This system of victimizing young men simply because of their skin colour has already been deemed a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Handing a receipt to an individual to account for the carding procedure will not make the interaction right. It does not acknowledge violation of rights or abusive behaviour on the part of police officers.
Forget the receipt, just stop the carding. Stop the criminalization of Black youth. Once these young people’s names are put in the system, any future interaction with law enforcement will show them up as ‘known to police’. Is that fair, especially if they didn’t do anything wrong in the first place?
Police Chief Bill Blair sent an internal video message to officers recently warning them that discreditable behaviour would not be tolerated. He did so against the backdrop of yet another judge’s findings regarding abuse of power by an officer who seemed “indifferent to the truth” in his court testimony regarding an assault incident in which the officer was deemed the perpetrator.
We expect more from one of the best police forces in the country. We know that Chief Blair has put a focus on recruiting from minority communities to create greater diversity on the force. We see that as a very positive step. But diversity among officers is not an end unto itself. We also expect TPS to institute an effective, even pioneering, policy to turn around the needlessly hostile and aggressive interrogation technique that we hear is typical of the way officers carry out carding.
We want to be assured that those entrusted with enforcing the law are not over-policing Black communities. We all want safe neighbourhoods, and we hold no brief for criminals, but for the average young Black law-abiding male to be living with a sense of being under constant surveillance when he is just trying to go about his daily life creates a siege atmosphere, the kind those from war-torn countries flee to Canada to escape.In more than a year since a Toronto Star report found police officers in this city are stopping and cataloguing Black males in much higher numbers than the general population, the Toronto Police Service (TPS) has yet to respond substantively.