Rules changing for police street checks

If the drift of Canada towards a police state has not yet affected you directly, you would do well to recall the words of Pastor Martin Niemoller, writing in Germany before his arrest in the 1930s: "The Nazis came for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics and I was a Protestant, so I didn't speak that time there was nobody left to speak up for anyone."

Rules changing for police street checks

Postby Thomas » Sat Mar 26, 2016 6:51 am

Chief Larkin welcomes changes, notes some challenges ahead

WATERLOO REGION – Changes to the way police are allowed to collect information through street checks – also known as carding – illustrates an “evolution” in public policy, believes Waterloo Regional Police Chief Bryan Larkin.

“Street checks and this type of information gathering is an important part of policing. We’re going to continue to do the practice, yet within the conformities of the new legislation,” he told the Times.

“This is democracy. Police agencies must enforce the law and we must follow the law, and this will be coming into law.”

Under new provincial legislation, announced on Tuesday (March 22) and coming into effect on Jan. 1, police officers who stop someone on the street must inform that person of their right not to provide identifying information.

Officers must also explain why the person is being asked for identification. Those reasons cannot be “arbitrary”, the result of the individual declining to answer a question or attempting to leave, “based on race” or that the person is in a high-crime area.

“It both bans the arbitrary and race-based collection of identifying information and establishes clear and consistent rules for police officers to protect individual rights in interactions that help keep our communities safe,” said Yasir Naqvi, minister of community safety and correctional services, in a news release.

“These important changes will help strengthen public accountability and foster increased public trust in police, which is essential for building a stronger, safer Ontario.”

Officers doing street checks must also offer documentation that includes his or her name, badge number and details on how to lodge a complaint.

“There are elements of this that create enhanced transparency and accountability, which I think is always a positive,” said Larkin.

The legislation creates a few challenges for police services that will need to be addressed, the chief said, noting finances will come into play.

“There is a cost to all of these different processes,” Larkin stressed, pointing to officer training and a requirement to review street checks every 30 days to ensure they meet legislative requirements – something he believes may require the creation of a new staff position to accomplish.

“There are still some things that need to be fleshed out.”

Training, he said, presents the largest obstacle to implementation. The training schedule for 2015 has already been set and now something may need to come out in order to bring the department’s 770 officers up to speed on the new street check rules.

“This is a new approach. We’ll figure out how to implement it and ensure we comply, and get moving,” said Larkin.

Between 2005 and the end of last year, Waterloo Regional Police collected information from people on nearly 63,700 occasions through street checks.

During each of those checks, details about gender, race and age are noted and kept in a databank, along with the location, date and time.

Arbitrary and race-based stops have been banned by the local police force since the creation of a bias-neutral policy in 2004, explained Larkin. Not all departments have such a prohibition in place prior to this new legislation.

“To create some province-wide consistency is a step in the right direction,” he said.

The new identification rules don’t apply if a person stopped is legally required to provide their information, such as during a traffic stop, when they are under arrest or in the midst of a search warrant.

Exemption also applies if the officer has a “reasonable suspicion” it is necessary for the investigation of an offence that has been committed or an offence the officer “reasonably suspects” will happen.

The new regulation also puts in place a review of the rules after two years and establishes a training advisery roundtable – featuring experts in policing, civil liberties, human rights and youth – to provide training feedback for the curriculum at the Ontario Police College. ... et-checks/
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