By Molly Hayes, Hamilton Spectator

Hamilton police practise carding and they keep race-based information on file, a report from the service has revealed.

The report on the practice — or "street checks" as the service prefers to call them — was requested at last month's police services board meeting, after a delegation from a local activist voiced concerns around racial profiling.

The report, presented Thursday, defines a street check as "police engagement with community members for investigative purposes."

A physical card is kept on each of these interactions, with varying amounts of personal data including name, date of birth, address, and race.

And there is no limit to how long those files stay in the police database, Deputy Chief Eric Girt said, because they never know when the information could be useful.

And according to police records, officers have done more than 9,000 of them since 2010. There were 2,432 in 2010, 2,893 in 2011, 1,365 in 2013 and 188 last year.

In his presentation to the police board Thursday, Girt attributed the steep decline in 2014 to a "chilling effect" felt by police services across North America when it comes to the controversial issue of carding.

In 2011 (the last year for which census data is available), 15.7 per cent of the city's population was a visible minority. In that same year, according to the report, 25 per cent of those street checked were of a visible minority.

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