London City Council could soon become the first in the country to formally call on Police to put an end to carding.
The Community and Protective Services Committee unanimously endorsed a motion last week that would see the Mayor present a letter to the London Police Services Board, asking them to ban the practice of street checks and ensure ongoing anti-racism and anti-oppression training across the organization.
Council will hold a final vote on Tuesday afternoon, but it’s seen as largely symbolic.
Councillor Mo Salih has been publicly pushing to end carding since June 2015 after the provincial Liberals announced they were considering changes to the controversial practice.
“This is one of those opportunities for those in the present to ensure that the people in the future will look back at us in a positive light, recognize that we did what was in the best interests of Londoners, in particular those in racialized and marginalized communities,” said Salih.
Salih hopes to see London make history with Tuesday’s vote.
“Everybody wants community safety, but you have to recognize when you start to tear down bridges in a community while you’re policing that community, then you have less of the community on your side and it only becomes harder to police,” said Salih.
Salih also argued there’s no statistical evidence to prove carding works, which President of the London Police Association Rick Robson acknowledged.
“And that’s an arguable failing in the system, and I think part of the failure in the system was that there never was the expectation from the Police perspective that we would have to substantiate that it was a positive, working enforcement tool,” said Robson.
Carding is when Police stop an individual to collect information. Critics say minorities are disproportionately affected, and Police have been accused of exploiting the fact that many people don’t know they’re voluntary.
Robson denies those accusations.
“At it’s heart, [carding] is about gathering intelligence,” said Robson. “It’s a policing tool, Police are talking to people in the community, arguably one of the lowest forms of an interaction with Police and members of the community, understandably it often involves talking to people who have committed no crime. It’s used as a tool to identify witnesses or learn what a community knows that Police don’t.”
Robson also denied any suggestion that carding is racist, and argued banning the practice would be the wrong way to approach concerns surrounding the practice.
“If you do believe that there is inherent, institutional racism involved in policing, ending carding does not remove that,” Robson said. “It just means that it’ll somehow be subverted, it’ll appear in a different form, but that is part of my misunderstanding of the call for this, because it doesn’t address concerns that there is racism in policing.”
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.
Police Chief John Pare has rejecting calls to include a reason for the street check on the receipt, citing privacy concerns.
Pare has claimed he doesn’t need the board’s approval for the decision.
The decision to not include a reason on the receipt has further irked anti-carding protesters, who plan to demonstrate outside Police headquarters during the next Board meeting on December 14th.
That’s when Mayor Matt Brown will present the letter from Council if the motion is approved on Tuesday afternoon. The Council meeting starts at 4p.m.