Community police talks to students

Published on December 1, 2015 | by mariam.salem     Photography by Victoria Scott

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Waterloo police chief concerned about Ontario’s new carding rules

New regulations regarding the controversial police practice of carding can prevent police from doing their jobs, said Waterloo Regional Chief of Police Bryan Larkin.

The Ontario government’s proposed adequacy standards and regulations say that officers cannot randomly stop and question citizens.

Police are also required to tell the individual stopped that they have the right to walk away. They also must provide a reason for the stop, inform citizens of how to file a complaint or access the information acquired during the stop and tell them they will receive documentation summarizing the reasons for the stop.

Larkin, who visited the University of Guelph-Humber on Nov. 12 to speak to Media Studies students about police and media relations, said that carding is one of the most significant and discussed issues today.

Also known as “street checks,” carding allows police officers to stop and question people not suspected of criminal activity and then enter the information in a database.

People who oppose this practice believe it violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms because of allegations that police do not stop people randomly and are instead motivated by race.

“We believe in following the Charter and the Constitutional Act. That being said, there’s elements of when you stop somebody and question somebody and do street checks that are very valuable to police intelligence and policing,” said Larkin.

Yasir Naqvi, the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, said that these new regulations are a response to complaints from black communities all over the country.

“We believe that random and arbitrary stops to collect and store personal information based on nothing more than the colour of one’s skin are illegitimate, disrespectful and have no place in our society. I know that this is a view shared by all Ontarians.”

According to Larkin, however, officers routinely stop and question people on the street for information as part of community-based policing.

“Communicating effectively with the public is essential to laying the groundwork for building trust,” said Larkin.

He also said he is concerned with telling somebody who’s been stopped that they have the option to walk away and they’ll mess with the balance of investigative detention. In other words, citizens, especially potential criminals, could get the idea that they don’t have to talk to the police.

“The issue was brought to life when the Toronto Star wrote about a young African-American man that was arbitrarily stopped for no reason,” said Larkin. He said that the media has written mostly from the perspective of the citizens, which has increased public distrust of police.

Naqvi said the new regulations were implemented because of the many complaints about carding from the public.

“Whether you are a brown man in Brampton, an aboriginal woman in Thunder Bay, or a young black male in Toronto, we heard you and we heard your lived reality, and we are taking action today,” said Naqvi.

Larkin said that he is hoping that the minister listens to all the feedback – especially from the police – and that they will give police the space to do their jobs in the way they are trained.

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