Update: see previous post – October 23, 2015 Ontario To End Arbitrary and Random Carding By Police
Civilian oversight suffers from pushback from police chiefs, who have tried to opt out of carding policies amid a lack of clarity on what boards can or can’t demand.
Calling Ontario’s new carding regulations a “very bold move,” the association representing the province’s police boards is nonetheless seeking changes to ensure they have the explicit authority to enforce the rules with police they oversee.
Fred Kaustinen, executive director of the Ontario Association of Police Services Boards (OAPSB), wants to make sure any force-specific policies developed by civilian boards to implement the province’s carding regulations are not met with pushback from the police themselves — a problem some boards say is far too common.
Simply put, the province needs to make sure police can’t opt out of any carding policies because of a lack of clarity over what police boards can and cannot demand.
“I’ll tell you right now, here’s what the boards need — they need clear roles,” Kaustinen said. “And the chiefs need to understand those roles as much as the board members.”
Kaustinen said some Ontario police services, including Peel and Toronto, are “basically telling their employers, i.e. their police boards, that operations are none of their business.”
Last month, Ontario’s Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services unveiled draft regulations that set strict new limits on carding, also known as street checks — the controversial police practice of stopping, questioning and documenting people who are not suspected of a crime.
The regulations, now under a 45-day public review period, ban arbitrary and random stops and set limits on why and how police question and document members of the public.
The proposed regulations have been met with praise from community groups and human rights activists, who have long said carding disproportionately affects racialized groups. A series of Toronto Star investigations have found that black and brown young men are far more likely to be stopped and questioned by police than white men.
Some police leaders and unions, however, have argued the regulations will handcuff officers and ultimately keep them from interacting with members of the public.
In a letter addressed to Community Safety Minister Yasir Naqvi, OAPSB president Russ Bain urges the province to use stronger wording, to emphasize that carding policies developed by a police board are “binding on the applicable chief of police or commissioner.”
That addition to the regulations is necessary, Kaustinen said, because of resistance some police boards have encountered from chiefs on this issue. That’s partly because, according to law, civilian boards are not supposed to interfere with the day-to-day operations of a police service.
Kaustinen and others have said this has led to confusion about a police board’s authority. He says it’s “baloney” to suggest boards should not have a say in operations. Otherwise, “why have a board?” he said.
In 2014, the Toronto Police Services Board entered into a bitter dispute with then-police chief Bill Blair over carding policies the board developed. Blair said he had operational concerns with the policy and refused for nearly a year to write new procedures in keeping with the policy. The board ended up passing what many considered to be a watered-down carding policy.
In September, Peel Police Chief Jennifer Evans refused to suspend carding, explicitly ignoring an instruction from Peel’s police board to stop the practice until further review.
Alok Mukherjee, former chair of the Toronto police board, said this move by the OAPSB is part of a larger conversation with the ministry on the need for “truly effective governance of policing.”
There should be no vagueness about the police board’s role, he said — it must be clear that chiefs are obligated to implement board policy.
“That was the source of frustration in Toronto, when the public would come to our board when Blair was refusing to implement the carding policy… (They would ask) ‘Why can’t you tell him to do it?’ Well, we were telling him, but we had very little recourse when he said no,” Mukherjee said.
Blair, now the Liberal MP for Scarborough Southwest, could not be reached for comment Friday.