Days after the provincial government announced it would be revamping “carding” procedures for police departments in the province, a London city councillor is calling on the London Police Service to suspend the process altogether, suggesting it may be race-motivated.
Carding is a practice whereby police officers record information about people, vehicles and properties though details like names, addresses, date of birth, races, and identifiable markings of community members. The interactions are voluntary, through critics argue that people may not know they have the right to decline to answer questions.
Ward 3 Councillor Mo Salih, who is black himself, says that blacks are disproportionately exposed to the LPS’s street checking program.
Numbers from the LPS show that in 2014, of the 14,000 people ended into the service’s database, 71.2 per cent were white and 7.7 per cent were black.
Based on 2011 census numbers, the most recent available, London’s white population was 82 percent, while the city’s black population was only 2.2 per cent, which Salih says reinforces what he’s heard from black constituents impacted by the process.
“That to me is a big concern,” he said. “We need to take immediate action around this. We need to look at what we’re doing…. Policing is always going to be challenging. I want to continue to support the police. I want to be able to give them all the means to support them, but the reality is that I don’t want any member of the London community to feel as if they are being stopped for any other reason other than the fact that maybe they aren’t actually doing anything wrong.”
Salih sent a letter to the London Police Services Board, and hopes to have a conversation with community stakeholders, lawmakers, and representatives of various divisions of policing in London.
Dan Axford, adminstrator for the London Police Association, the union representing LPS officers, said that it would be detrimental to the community if street checks were suspended altogether.
“That would be dangerous to public safety,” he said. “Crimes are still being committed. Clearly police don’t always show up at the immediate time that a crime is happening. We can’t be everywhere at all times. And the only way we can solve crimes is through intelligence gathering, and it’s really important.”
Though he is opposed to eliminating carding, he did express a willingness to “making the process better,” which he said may include noting “why the person was stopped and what it’s related to.”
“We don’t target this based on race,” he said. “We base it on a lot of factors: you know, high crime area, who’s coming and going, time of day. The stats that are there…look concerning, but you need to dive down a lot deeper than the stats. I mean, it’s not an interrogation. Generally…an officer sees a person in an area that has had a lot of daytime break-ins. It could be three o’clock in the afternoon and they see a couple of people walking down the street.”