A new set of policies surrounding the controversial practice of carding have been approved by the Toronto Police Services Board, despite critics voicing concerns about police keeping old carding data obtained under the previous system.
Under the new policies, police will not be allowed to randomly stop citizens who are not suspected of a crime or based solely on their race.
Police would continue to have access to historic carding data for the purpose of investigations, something critics say should not be allowed since some of that data was obtained unlawfully.
“There’s a very high watermark with respect to when it can be used and it is going to be taken away from all of the other systems and in order for it to get access to it it has to go through me,” Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders told reporters outside of the board meeting Thursday.
“I have to account to an independent committee, a member of the board, a member of the public and a member of the judicial system and I have to explain why I gave access and will also be measuring who has asked for access so that the public has an understanding of what we’re doing with the information and why the information is being obtained.”
Saunders and select designates would have access to the data in certain situations, which he argued could be useful in Cold Case investigations, missing persons cases and other cases.
“There’s so many reasons where there’s information where if we have access to that information it could potentially save lives,” he said.
“And so these aren’t things that we’re doing because we’re trying to win anything, it’s about community safety, overall community safety, and if there’s information that can save somebody’s life I think that’s something important to think about.”
Toronto-based journalist and outspoken carding critic Desmond Cole said police should not have access to this information because it sets a dangerous precedent.
“What do the chief and his designates want to look at millions of peoples’ information for? They collected that information from us when they should never have done, so what do they want to look at it for now?,” he said.
“I say that if you set that precedent now than anytime the police violate our privacy they will argue that they can keep what they stole because it can be useful later.”
The Toronto Police Service changed its carding regulations after the provincial government released its own regulations in March to ban police from arbitrarily stopping people to collect personal information and to keep written records of the interactions.
NEWS: Toronto’s police board has approved a new carding policy. The racist practice continues. Old data remains in police hands. #carding
— Desmond Cole (@DesmondCole) November 17, 2016
The new provincial regulations will be in effect as of Jan. 1, 2017, which also include the measure that officers must inform members of the public that they have right to not speak with police.
Toronto Mayor John Tory said in a statement that he had “advocated for the deletion of the historical data” but the board had “received compelling advice related to the legal and practical rationale against deletion”
“I am satisfied that the resulting policy appropriately restricts access to this data and increases accountability and transparency around its use,” he said Cole disagreed, saying the retention of the data allows it to be accessed unlawfully in the future. “If you leave that database in the police’s hands you are opening up the possibility that somebody is going to look at it. And if carding is wrong, which they don’t want to admit, then there’s no reason to have access to any of that information — it needs to be destroyed,” he said.
“The police and carding data should be done. There’s no further reason for them to go back into those databases and once the courts have dealt with the few people who are fighting carding in the courts than all of that information needs to be destroyed.”
— John Tory (@JohnTory) November 17, 2016