Carding-Street Interviews

As a past member of The Toronto Police Service and citizen of our city, I was shocked to see the direction coming from the Toronto Police Service Board with this ‘carding situation’ where Police Officers were to be instructed to FIDO (fuck it drive on). It appears now there is a ‘war on cops’ not a ‘war on crime’.   To instruct police officers to turn a blind eye to a valuable investigative tool like stopping to ask questions that will help investigations when a crime is committed is dangerous and misguided.   There will be a motion from the mayor at the next PSB meeting to stop carding completely and it is astounding to find a credible way that this will help the victims of crime. It will definitely have a profound effect on officer safety and it will not be a positive one, that I can guarantee.

And now the Ontario Government will attempt to bring in regulations to govern police carding and throw it to a working group to consult on what the regulations should be.  This new committee will take months. What happens in the meantime? I know front line officers have no trust in the Police Services Board or the Ontario Government when it comes to allowing them to perform their duties in respect to carding. These same officers will continue the practice of FIDO until this problem is resolved, which will be months now.

Specialty Units in the TPS are presently starving for information because for over a year officers have stopped putting in the required information from their street level interviews.  This is a practice going on for over 40 years in Toronto and has been extremely successful in solving crime.  The police service must produce the facts and figures to support the success stories when carding is done properly.

I agree it has to be controlled and supervised from this day forward so that only the individuals are stopped who are up to no good.  This safeguard must be respected and executed with the highest regard for freedom for all communities so that officers can collect data to help solve crimes.

A crucial change that will have a positive impact would be to ensure carding is no longer used to evaluate an officer’s performance.  Removing this as a motivation for officers looking to pad their numbers will automatically decrease the amount of people that are stopped.

An example of other tools for investigations that can be harnessed to help in the war against crime are increased compensation for CI’s  (confidential informants) or improving the rewards for Crime Stoppers.

Toronto has to know they have a great police leader in Chief Mark Saunders and he will work this problem out if he is just given a fair chance to do it.   The politics must be put to the sidelines to enable the new Chief to lead the force and protect our great city without the interference.  Police officers in this city know the usual suspects who jump on the bandwagon to complain about cops and are familiar to this strategy.  Complaining about police is a billion dollar business in North America where people and groups benefit financially by going after cops, whether it is the media, special interest groups, lawyers or politicians. Negative stories about police get a lot more play and usually lead to government grants and committees that suddenly pop up.  There is an entire industry that people have built which creates jobs in our society and it is based on complaining about police officers.

But now this the time when law enforcement has to step up when it affects victim’s rights, fighting crime and officer safety. This is where the line must be drawn in the sand and the police must say enough is enough, you are wrong; we need this tool to do our jobs.   If carding stops then the individuals who were pushing for it should be held accountable when crime goes up.  When the spikes in violence effect victims of crime and becomes an officer safety issue it may be too late to re-examine this issue.

When all this news about carding being abolished has disappeared from the headlines, one group who will be happy will be the criminals.  They will be dancing in the streets, free to go about breaking into homes, robbing variety stores, sexual assaults, starting fires, carrying guns and dealing drugs.   These are just some offences committed every day in our city in all communities where the bad guy now knows cops will not stop them and get their information.

Put the checks and balances in place, which will allow officers to do interviews on the streets and increase other tools for law enforcement at the same time.  The men and women who protect us in Toronto are an incredible group of people who every day put their lives at risk and will balance out the rights of everyone.  They do not have the luxury of getting emotional over an issue and unfortunately carding has become an emotional issue.  With some people that is very dangerous, as people are prone to making wrong choices when emotions get involved.

Just get rid of the emotions and make the right decision.  Remove the word ‘carding’ once and for all and call it something else.

And last but not least, allow police officers to stop and interview persons on the street who are up to no good, while balancing this with the safeguards so that no one’s rights are violated.