Known to police: No need for review of Toronto police contacts with “racialized” youth, act now, says watchdog group

Published on Thursday March 22, 2012

Jim Rankin
Staff Reporter

Toronto police officers should provide citizens they stop and question with carbon copies of cards used to document encounters that typically result in no arrest or charges, a police watchdog group suggests.

Police should also provide monthly reports to the Toronto Police Services Board on “carding” activities, including the race and ages of those being stopped, the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition says in a briefing to the board, which had been scheduled to meet today, Thursday.

The meeting was postponed at the last minute due to lack of quorum. The transit debate at city hall took precedent. There is no new date yet for the board meeting.

On the board agenda — and in the wake of a Star series that found police continue to disproportionately stop and document black and brown people — is a recommendation by board chair Alok Mukherjee that the city’s auditor general conduct an independent review of police contacts with the public, particularly youth of different ethno-racial backgrounds.

Mukherjee is proposing the auditor general also look at how the police practice of documenting citizens may have affected public trust and to report back by the end of 2013.

None of that is needed, says the coalition, headed by former Toronto mayor John Sewell.

“We do not believe it is useful to ask the City Auditor to further analyze this data and report in 19 months: as noted, the Star’s analysis seems fair and reasonable, however critical or uncomfortable the conclusions,” reads a letter to the board signed by Sewell.

“Racialized youth and men are stopped more frequently, and thus treated differently by police than others, and that treatment is discriminatory.”

The coalition is seeking standing at the board meeting and its proposals include:

Police provide everyone stopped with a “carbon copy” of the contact card used by officers, including the reason for the stop. “This will ensure that individuals can clearly indicate how many times they have been stopped and for what reason,” the letter states.

Police provide an information sheet telling people their rights, “particularly their rights not to co-operate.” The sheet would be written by police, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the African Canadian Legal Clinic and Justice for Children and Youth.

In an analysis of police data obtained in a freedom of information request, the Star found that in each of the city’s 72 patrol zones blacks are more likely than whites to be documented, and that the likelihood increased in areas that are predominantly white.

Overall, blacks in Toronto are 3.2 times more likely than whites to be documented. An additional Star analysis shows blacks represent 30 per cent of charges laid for violent crimes, while making up 8.3 per cent of Toronto’s population.

The data gathered on contact cards is entered into a massive police database that officers use following a crime to search for connections to others and possible witnesses and suspects.

Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair, lauded by many for his efforts in race relations and diversifying the police service, has said targeted policing efforts in crime hot spots where there is high victimization — and higher populations of non-white citizens — accounts for differences in who police stop, question and document.

He also points out that many of the people documented are stopped in areas where they do not live.

The Star used census data, the only available benchmark, to compare the stop data to populations.

For youth, a Star analysis found the number of black and brown males aged 15 to 24 who had been documented since 2008 outnumbers the actual populations of young black and brown men who live in the city.

Mukherjee has said he found the differences “hugely problematic, regardless of what explanation is provided by the police service.”

To see the series Known to police, including interactive maps that show differences in carding, go to