The Massive Police Database of Information on Black Torontonians Should Be Destroyed

By Desmond Cole

For at least a decade, Toronto's police force has been quietly building a massive database of the black residents it is supposed to serve. This is not a catalogue of convicted criminals—most black people in the database are not suspected of any crime, at least not in any official sense. Police simply document us in case they ever need to identify us later.

In Toronto we use the term "carding" to describe the police practice of stopping civilians who are not suspected of a crime, and documenting their personal information. For years, this practice was a secret; now we know it exists, and that it has excessively targeted Toronto's black residents. The retention of information collected in such a dubious and discriminatory manner is an insult to black residents. Yet police plan to not only continue carding, but to keep the information from millions of individual contacts in a database for years to come—just in case.

Last week, outgoing Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair announced that he had, in partnership with the police oversight board, developed new rules about carding. The police have been conducting the practice without formal regulations, and only changed course after an eye-opening Toronto Star investigation exposed carding's shocking scope and bias: In 2013, 27 percent of the people Toronto police carded were black, even though we only represent about eight percent of the population. The public knows almost nothing about how our personal information has been stored, accessed, and shared.

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Photos from March 19, 2015 protest at Toronto's police headquarters

JFAAP standing up against police violence



Black Action Defense Committee member speaking out against police violence



Smash police violence


OCAP organizer motivating the crowd to organize against police violence


Cops doing what they do...serve and protect the interests of the ruling-class!


Rights Watch Network's organizer standing firm against police violence


Poverty and police violence are linked...police tend to operate like an occupation army in racialized working-class communities such as Jane-Finch and Jamestown.

Jane Finch Community's International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination - protesting police violence

On a blustery cold day we protested against the racist actions of the cops at Toronto's 31 Division, which is located at 40 Norfinch Drive. This protest was organized by the Jane Finch Action Against Poverty and the Network for the Elimination of Police Violence.

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