The information police capture on receipts they issue to members of the public will be used lawfully to make the city safer, says Deputy Chief Peter Sloly.
At a virtual town hall meeting last week, many of the callers were concerned about the issue of “carding” and what police will do with the information they record on receipts – Form 307 – that they started to issue to members of the public last Monday. Some callers also wanted to know how long police plan to keep the information.
“We are not keeping it for any longer than we need to and certainly not using it for anything that would be outside the bounds of legal or moral value,” said Sloly.
At the moment, Sloly said the information captured can be retained for an indefinite period.
“We are not sure that this is the right level of retention, so we want to get some feedback from people in the community about how long we should keep that,” he said. “Certainly the primary use of that 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.
“There is a number of ways that information can be used around public safety. To some degree, that information can be used for when people are applying for vulnerable sector and other background checks.”
Late last month, an Ontario judge ruled that an officer’s street check was unconstitutional.
Sloly, who is in charge of the Service’s 17 divisions, said Toronto Police has been thoroughly examining the legality of their actions.
“We have spoken not only with our in-house lawyers, but we have approached the human rights commission, lawyers who are chartered experts and we have asked them for their legal opinions,” he said. “We have also looked at case law. In all of those instances, we have been told that police officers are legally able to talk to people in the street and gather information from those contacts. What is clear though is officers cannot break the law in doing that. They can’t abuse or breach the human rights legislation, they cannot violate the charter and they cannot break our own codes of conduct. We want to work within the law, but we will not tolerate our officers breaking the law.”
Sloly said the Service will evaluate the receipt process and explore a variety of ways of increasing transparency and accountability.
The Toronto Police Services Board Street Check Committee recommended the interim measure.
“The goal of tonight’s town hall is to explore all of these issues,” said Sloly. “One of the ways that we are all able to keep this city safe is by working together and interacting with each other. Many times, our officers are out on the streets talking to people, finding out who they are and what they are doing. In those interactions, we often capture information that – at that time – may help prevent a problem or at some time in the future, may help to solve a crime. We know these conversations are not easy. We are well aware that sometimes those conversations can end up in confrontation and we don’t want those things to happen.
“We never want to be disrespectful and we never want it to end in greater conflict or less trust in the police. But that’s the reality. For us to work together, we have to talk together and interact with each other. For us to find the criminals in our midst, we have to get to know who the good people are and for us to be able to keep the city safe, we have to be able to trust each other. Right now, that is not an easy thing to do. We have gun, gang and drug violence and we have other types of crimes happening. We also have parts of the city feeling very victimized and not particularly well-served by the police.”
Close to 100,000 members of the public were randomly selected to take part in the discussion that included Superintendent Dave McLeod, the 31 Division unit commander.