TORONTO - Toronto Police officers may soon have to inform citizens of their rights whenever they stop them, including telling them they have the right to walk away.
A draft policy presented to the Toronto Police Services Board Thursday responds to growing concern over so-called “carding” practices which critics say target minorities and keep on file the information of many people who have no criminal record.
Alok Mukherjee, chairman of the TPSB, defended the new policy, acknowledging that the “balance needed to be reset.”
“We’re all very familiar with the concerns that have been out there in public about the quality and nature of police contacts,” Mukherjee said. “A series of efforts have been made to deal with it. Clearly there are still very significant issues out there.”
Police use the “street checks” to gather intelligence in many priority neighbourhoods but officers have been accused of racial profiling and damaging public trust in the service.
Mukherjee said the new framework will make the process more transparent.
“It’s a rights-based approach,” he said. “It balances the needs of policing with respect of people’s rights and not just respect in an implicit way but a requirement that police have a responsibility to inform people of their rights and tell them you have the right to walk away ... those legitimate conversations will not be turned into fishing expeditions.”
The policy review was conducted by lawyer Frank Addario, who stressed that eliminating carding would be counter productive. It would just “drive bad practices underground,” he said.
A meeting will be held April 8 to gather public feedback on the policy. The board hopes to finalize the policy by April 10 in advance of the summer, when most street checks occur.
But lawyer Peter Rosenthal told the board they should ban carding immediately because it has created the feeling of neighbourhoods being “occupied.”
“This practice would never be tolerated in any middle class neighbourhood in the city,” Rosenthal said.
The Toronto Police Services Board has asked the city’s auditor general to review at least three years worth of incidents involving use of conducted energy weapons, commonly known as Tasers.
The board made the request at its monthly meeting Thursday. They want the auditor to look at data compiled to determine if the weapons were used properly and if they complied with service standards.
The review would try to determine if alternative responses were attempted before use of the weapons such as de-escalation techniques. The review comes at a time when services across Ontario, including Toronto Police, are grappling with the idea of outfitting more officers with the weapons in a bid to give them non-lethal alternatives.
“This (review) may help answer some long-term questions,” said board chairman Alok Mukherjee.
The review sprung from a report on conducted energy weapon used by officers in 2013. Just over 200 officers, front-line supervisors and emergency task force members, have the weapons. They were used 192 times in 2013.
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