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'Random carding should end': Ontario Justice Tulloch

Last Updated Jan 4, 2019 at 1:09 pm EDT

The practice of random police carding should be abolished because it isn’t effective in detecting criminals and causes damage to black and Indigenous communities, according to Ontario Justice Michael Tulloch.

Earlier this week, Tulloch issued a report saying carding has little to no value as a law enforcement tool and should be significantly limited in the province.

Tulloch said officers should only be stopping people for questioning if they have a clearly defined reason for doing so.

“The negative impact of random carding, particularly on Indigenous, black and other racialized communities, combined with the limited evidence that it is an effective police tool, brings me to only one logical conclusion and that is that random carding should end,” Tulloch said at a news conference on Friday.

“Random carding had a very minimal role in detecting or deterring offenders, or reducing crime. In my view, it is far better to use our limited resources to focus on individuals who are reasonably suspected of committing an offence, rather than using valuable manpower to question thousands of people not reasonably suspected of anything.”

He said that if carding is to continue there needs to be revisions to the regulations so that officers can’t just stop people arbitrarily. Also, that police need to have reasonable grounds that must be reported.

Tulloch said suspicious activities can be determined very broadly, allowing for improper street checks based on the current regulations.

“For this reason I have recommended that when police officers are requesting identifying information because they are inquiring into a suspicious or a criminal activity, they must have objective and credible grounds to justify the inquires,” he said.

Tulloch also said some people have made the connection between the decrease in street checks and an increase in violent crime, but “the link in my view is unsubstantiated.”

The Ontario judge was appointed by the previous Liberal government to assess whether rules around street checks were being applied fairly.

The new Progressive Conservative government has said it plans to review those regulations and will be guided by Tulloch’s findings.

Street checks unfairly target some groups

The report does allow that police may have legitimate grounds to conduct street checks in certain circumstances, but notes those are very specific and the practice as a whole should be sharply curtailed.

“Studies have shown that street checks have disproportionately impacted members of Indigenous, black and other racialized communities,” Tulloch said.

Tulloch said the role of police is to maintain the trust of the communities that they serve. He adds that a community that trusts the police confides in the police and respects the police.

“Regardless of where we live, we all want to feel safe and we all want to have pride in our communities. We do not want to be stigmatized as criminals or victimized as criminals,” Tulloch said.

Difference between street checks and carding

Tulloch said misinformation and confusion over the years have led to many people believing that street checks are synonymous with random, sometimes racially based police stops known as carding.

He said carding is a specific subset of street checks that should be stopped, as it disproportionately impacts racialized communities and does not help police fight crime.

But he said non-random street checks have real value for investigators and should be allowed to continue as long as officers have clear grounds for why they’re being conducted.

Tulloch said clearing up widespread misunderstanding around street checks is the first, essential step, adding the difference boils down to police motivation.

“It is far better to use our limited resources to focus on individuals who are reasonably suspected of committing an offence rather than using valuable manpower to question thousands of people not reasonably suspected of anything,” Tulloch said.

Tulloch’s support for non-random street checks was echoed by the Police Association of Ontario, who also said valid police stops had become synonymous with carding.

“It is most unfortunate that, over time, the intended purpose and its effectiveness as a crime prevention and solvency practice has been lost,” Association president Bruce Chapman said in a statement.

“As a serving police officer for over 35 years, I can truly attest to the value that this tool provides to an investigation. That being said, the [Police Association of Ontario] has been clear that our members have never and will never support the practice of arbitrary detention or racially-biased stops.”


Some of his other recommendations:

  • A need for a rights education program and that it should be taught in a curriculum
  • Creation of a college of policing. He says a degree program would go a long way. “Training is arguably the most important part of the regulation,” Tulloch said.
  • Annual reports should be made publicly available by the next calendar year