With changes coming to the Toronto Police Service’s carding policy, Toronto citizens may not be the only ones feeling anxious.
Chief Bill Blair will be announcing changes to the policy on Feb. 19, which involves police officers stopping individuals on the street and taking down their personal information.
The practice is controversial, with opponents saying it is a form of racial profiling. Last year the Toronto Police Services Board announced changes to the policy.
Performance pressure among Toronto Police officers may be at the root of the police carding issue, said Stephen Duggan, program co-ordinator of Humber College’s Police Foundations program.
Contact cards were initially used to gather crime data in the 1960s, but began to be used as one of the criteria by which officers were appraised at the end of every month in the early 1970s, he said. This process still remains today.
“Here are officers who have all of a sudden said, ‘If I want to get promoted, I’ve got to get these indices high,’” the former street gang investigator said. “They either go to a cemetery and start writing on tombstones, or (they speak to) anybody (they) stop.”
Police conduct surveys to determine what the public thinks about the carding procedure, said Mark Pugash, director of Toronto Police Corporate Communications.
“We speak to people who have a wide range of views and we try to incorporate those views in our procedures,” said Pugash. “It’s a vital part of what we do.”
Feelings towards the service’s carding policy are mixed, with some members of Humber’s community saying the procedure is necessary to keep Torontonians safe and some saying that without a justifiable reason, the carding has no merit.
“I feel like (police carding) does help,” said Humber College student Vanessa Popoli . “If no one is doing anything, it kind of takes away from their day and time to be carded, but it’s understandable.”
The way in which officers treat the public while under pressure is a determining factor as to whether or not people have negative experiences or disagree with the carding procedures, said Duggan.
He said that in Police Foundations at Humber, they rely heavily on conflict management when training students.
A learning laboratory was launched a year ago, which allows students to walk through certain scenarios and react to incidents presented to them through virtual reality. The students are graded both by their peers and instructors on their physical and verbal reaction to the scenarios.
“Your greatest asset as an officer is your mouth,” said Duggan. “Officers have to treat everyone with civility.”