Street check regulations will hinder police from protecting Ontarians: PAO president

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(Screenshot: Twitter)

BY KELLY ROCHE

Higher crime rates and less effective policing will result from the province’s decision to alter the investigative practice of street checks, the Police Association of Ontario said Thursday.
“If a neighbourhood has experienced a number of break-ins or sexual assaults, Ontarians fully expect patrolling police to interact with individuals that arouse their suspicions,” said PAO president Bruce Chapman.
“Under these new regulations, a patrolling officer attempting to engage a suspicious member of the public is stripped of his ability to effectively collect information.”
Since the officer will immediately have to inform the person of their right to walk away, “the officer will learn nothing about the individual and have no record of their interaction,” said Chapman.
Minister of Community Safety and Corrections Services Yasir Naqvi announced two draft regulations surrounding street checks, also known as carding, Wednesday.
Police will be banned from randomly stopping and collecting information, and clear rules will be set regarding interactions with citizens where identifying information is given to officers.

Under the proposed changes to the Police Services Act, officers will have to tell people they’re not legally required to provide information and can walk away. In addition, police must inform individuals why their information is being collected, provide a written record of the interaction, and explain how to file complaints and access the information.
“Our government has been clear that we are opposed to any random and arbitrary collection of identifying information, and this regulation expressly prohibits that across Ontario,” said Naqvi.
He said the proposed changes establish “clear and consistent rules for police officers to protect civil liberties in interactions that help keep our communities safe.”
Police chiefs would also have to review practices relating to stops annually and report demographic statistics, and plans for improvement, if required.
Critics of street checks have often proclaimed street checks are racially motivated and violate charter rights.
Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie said the announcement “builds on the work we have done at the local level” and “communities like Mississauga and Peel can begin to turn the page on this divisive issue.”
Chapman said the PAO has always been clear it “welcomes the standardization of practices surrounding street checks” and is pleased the government has signaled its intention to “officially outlaw street checks based not on proper policing matters” but rather, race or other arbitrary factors.
“Everyone should be aware of their rights, but the government has acknowledged that there are situations where it would not be prudent or safe to inform people of their rights,” said Chapman.
“By attempting to draw a line in this area, the government risks scenarios where a police officer may actually tip off a suspect of an investigation by not providing the mandated caution and receipt,” Chapman continued.
“This turns a benign situation potentially volatile and unnecessarily dangerous.”
Chapman said he’s “confident that if these new rules go into effect, it will significantly hamper the ability of the police to protect law-abiding citizens from potentially dangerous individuals within their communities.”
Chapman cited the Steven Yeardley case in Peterborough as a “great example of how the loss of investigative tools may have dangerous consequences.”
Yeardley was released after serving a sentence for a brutal sexual assault, and had strict limitations on his movement at night, he said, when a police officer noticed a person avoiding her during a patrol in the middle of the night.
After intercepting the man and identifying him as Yeardley, she placed him in custody.
“If the proposed rules and regulations around street checks were then in effect, Yeardley would have very easily been able to evade the police,” said Chapman.
“He was, at that time, a person convicted of a very violent crime who was, at that time, breaking his terms of release, and that officer would not have had the tools to determine his identity.”
Draft regulations are being posted online for 45 days to gather public input.
Once in place, the regulations will be mandatory for every police service in the province.
Street checks would be banned starting March 1, 2016, while the other regulations would follow in July.

EXCEPTIONS

  • The proposed regulation would not apply if:
  • The individual is legally required to provide the information to the officer (e.g. during a traffic stop)
  • The individual is under arrest or being detained
  • The officer is undercover
  • The officer is investigating a particular offence
  • The officer is executing a warrant, court order or other related duties
  • The interaction involves attempting to collect information from someone involved in the administration of justice (e.g., Crown Attorney)
  • The information is obtained during an informal or casual interaction and the officer has no intention, at the time of the request, to record the information (e.g., community policing and interactions at local events)

(Source: Ministry of Community Safety and Corrections Services)

@qewsouthpost

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