Windsor’s chief says street checks ‘critical’ to police work

By Doug Schimdt, Windsor Star

Windsor's top cop is inviting the government to visit his city to find out how to do it right after the province on Tuesday promised to consult and then put an end to "unjustified" police street checks.!/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_960/image.jpg

When it comes to approaching people on Windsor's streets to engage them in conversation and ask them about their business, Chief Al Frederick said nothing is random or arbitrary and that it's "behaviour and circumstances, rather than gender or race" that would pique his officers' curiosity.

Ontario Community Safety Minister Yasir Naqvi, citing "ample examples" of racial bias when stopping people for questioning, said he wants mandatory new regulations by the fall setting out clear guidelines for any police service that chooses to conduct street checks. Toronto has become a flashpoint, with many civic leaders calling for an end to a practice some argue is susceptible to bias and racial profiling.
Windsor's Chief of Police Al Frederick in April 2014.

Frederick said he welcomes the community and group consultations the province plans to conduct over the summer, adding he'd like to be part of that effort. He said Windsor has had a street check policy for longer than the three decades he's been with the department and that "it's absolutely critical" to local police work.

About 1,000 times a year, on average, police officers in Windsor will create a report based on such "street check"
encounters with individuals who are not directly involved in a criminal investigation case file.

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London’s rate of conducting street checks is three times that of Ottawa and Hamilton

By Jennifer O'brien, London Free Press

London police conducted street checks last year at a rate more than triple that of police in Ottawa and Hamilton and more than five times that of Windsor, figures from the cities suggest.

London police ride bikes along Dundas Street. The force’s rate of street checks has come under scrutiny. (MIKE HENSEN, The London Free Press)

London police conducted 8,400 such street checks — or carding, as it's popularly known — in 2014, meaning at a rate of about 23 checks for every 1,000 people.

In Hamilton and Ottawa, by comparison, both larger cities, the rate worked out to seven or fewer checks per 1,000 people, while in Windsor it was 4.5.

While those numbers are adding more fuel to the fire of Coun. Mo Salih, who's calling on the police services board to review its policies about street checks, police Chief John Pare says he isn't concerned about the apparent differences in use of the information-­gathering tool in London and other cities.

"I don't know what their practices are. I can only speak to ours," Pare said Thursday. "It is used by officers to document information. We use it for intelligence, for public safety."

Pare said it may be that other cities are gathering the same data differently than London does.

Street checks — known as carding, because historically the information was kept on contact cards — is the police practice of recording and storing information about people, vehicles and locations that aren't involved in criminal investigations, to help build up a database police can draw upon later.

The controversial practice has come under a harsh spotlight in Ontario, especially in Toronto where critics say too often racial minorities are stopped for routine carding and profiled. The provincial government is moving to standardize how police forces can gather such information.

Last year, London police conducted about 8,400 street checks, involving 14,000 people.

By comparison, Ottawa police ran about 6,000 checks and Windsor police fewer than 1,000.

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Ottawa street checks are the 'wild west,' lawyer says

By John Willing

A local criminal defence lawyer believes the police practice of doing street checks in Ottawa is worse than in it is in Toronto.

Ottawa Police cruiser

"In Toronto you had the mayor weigh in on it, you had the Toronto police services board actually try to implement some sort of policy and rule about it," Michael Spratt said Tuesday. "In Ottawa, it's the wild west, there are no rules, and it's a practice that's rampant here as well."

Ottawa police have been building a street check policy and they plan to present it to the board when the proposed guidelines are ready. The province announced Tuesday it wants to standardize a street check policy across Ontario police forces.

Spratt said a street check policy should require police to inform people what their rights are.

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