By TOM GODFREY
Members of the community who have had encounters with police are being urged to send away for information that Toronto or other police forces may have collected on them from carding or other street check activities.
A news feature called Carding Project in the Toronto Star calls on readers who felt they have been carded to seek the data police may have collected and stored on them in their database.
The newspaper provides a link to a Freedom of Information request form for Toronto, Peel and York Regional police forces.
The completed application, according to the article, is sent to the Ontario government with a recognized piece of identification such as a driver’s licence and a cheque for $5, which the Star is willing to pay for those who cannot afford it. Photocopying fees also have to be enclosed.
“If police have carded you, you’ll hear back from them asking for money to cover photocopying costs. It’s 20 cents a page,” the story said.
The newspaper said it is seeking those who have had encounters with Toronto Police and believe they have been carded and are willing to ask for and share their information.
“If you’ve ever been asked for ID from police, you may have been carded, and your information may be on file,” the newspaper stated. “The campaign will make it easy for you to find out, and help better inform the public about the usefulness of the data police have been collecting on citizens for decades.”
Community members said in many cases young Black or brown-skinned men who have been carded are refused jobs, housing or tuition because their names are in police databases.
“Carding is the controversial police practice of stopping, questioning and documenting personal details of citizens in non-criminal encounters,” the story said, adding from 2008 and 2013, more than two million contact cards on more than a million individuals were filled out by officers.
The Ontario government will be introducing a new anti-carding law for police as early as March that would seal information obtained from street checks; with the data being regularly reviewed by a police chief or designate.
Under the proposed law, police will have to tell a person they do not have to talk to them and can walk away. They can still talk to residents about specific incidents of crime.
Residents will be provided with a written record of their interaction, given information about the officer, and informed about the police complaints system.
Once passed, the regulations would ban random and arbitrary stops this year. After that, Ontario police could only stop, question and document members of the public if they have a valid policing purpose.
The Star, which first exposed the police carding of Black youth, plans to conduct further research, led by reporter Jim Rankin.
“Star journalists want to see why people are being stopped, the circumstances and what information police chose to document,” the newspaper said. “They also want to see how accurate and useful the information is.”
Information can be sent to or obtained from the Star at: firstname.lastname@example.org