Just hours after Police Chief John Pare reaffirmed his support for street-checks, a united city council joined the chorus of Londoners who are opposed to the controversial police practice.
Council voted 11-0 Tuesday in support of a motion asking the London Police Services Board to stop performing street checks, also known as carding.
London city council is the first Canadian municipality to vote in favour of ending street checks. While the motion is largely considered symbolic as council can’t actually force city police to stop carding, the vote sends a clear message to Chief Pare.
— Mohamed Salih (@MohamedMOSalih) November 22, 2016
Ward 3 councillor Mo Salih, one of two visible minorities on city council, gave an impassioned seven minute speech in which he described the humiliation he felt when he was carded.
“This is, for me, a challenging conversation as it is for many people who look like me,” Salih said, choking back tears. “When I think of a lot of the young Londoners out there who look like me and sometimes they have these interactions (with police), they begin to feel criminalized.”
Salih said he personally has been stopped by police 15 times — as a teen and an adult for no reason — in different municipalities across the province.
“I’m young, and I’m black, and I will never apologize for that. So I don’t want any young black person–or any person who looks differently in our community–to ever feel like, because of the way they look or the faith they believe in, that they should feel as if they are doing something wrong.”
Salih also thanked his council colleagues for their support on the issue, and received a standing ovation in the gallery at city hall following his closing remarks.
Acknowledging his own position on the issue has evolved over time, Mayor Matt Brown also urged his council colleagues to call for a ban on carding in London.
“The Police Service Act requires the London Police Service to provide community-oriented police services in a manner that reflects the needs of the citizens of London. And by supporting the recommendation that the Chair has just brought forward, we can convey very clearly to the London Police Services Board that our community does not agree with the practice of carding, the practice of street checks,” said Brown.
“We are the voice of the community as this city council in so many ways, and this statement, if we support what’s before us right now, will send a powerful message.”
Carding is when police stop an individual to collect information. Critics argue statistics show visible minorities are disproportionately targeted, and police have been accused of exploiting the fact that many people don’t realize they’re voluntary.
Starting January 1st, Police will be provincially mandated to tell any carded individual that they don’t have to answer questions. Police will also give them a receipt at the end.
Pare has rejected calls to include a reason for the street check on the receipt, citing privacy concerns. Pare indicated he doesn’t need the board’s approval for the decision.
Demonstrators opposed to carding plan to stage a protest outside Police headquarters during the next London Police Services Board Meeting on December 14th.