Police Carding and the Edmonton Election

Police Carding and the Edmonton Election

Edmonton City Council Chambers (source)

Edmonton City Council Chambers (source)

We at Pyriscence are highly engaged in politics, as, we hope, are our readers. With the Edmonton municipal election ahead, we had hoped to do our part in better informing citizens on issues that we feel are vital to the future of our city. After brainstorming, we decided that the issue that we considered of greatest interest to our readers while also sufficiently focused for a survey is that of police carding. As it lies at the intersection of race, gender, class, power relations, public space, and the role of the state in security, police carding is in line with many of the issues we interrogate and critique here at Pyriscence.

It should be noted that the police exists at arms-length from city council, and so council cannot simply order the police to stop carding. However, the Edmonton Police Commission includes two members of City Council (currently Scott McKeen and Michael Oshry) who do have direct influence on police policy; furthermore, as leaders of our community, the members of city council have a platform to speak out against injustice and to shape public discourse, and that influence should not be understated. The purpose of elected officials is to represent the interests of the citizenry to the institutions of the state, and we expect that of them whether it comes in the form of rule-making or advocacy.

We understand that candidates are busy people and that they receive a number of such surveys over the course of the campaign; consequently, we kept our list of questions short and aimed to provide candidates with the opportunity to provide nuanced views on the issue without making the survey impossible to complete over the course of the campaign. We reached out to the candidates via email with the following questions:

  1. What are the goals of the carding process, as you see them?
  2. In your opinion, is carding achieving its goals?
  3. How should EPS address the racial disparity that has been demonstrated in carding statistics?
  4. How would you address carding in your role as city councillor?

We would like to offer our thanks to all those who participated in the survey. We hope that you have found their answers illuminating, and that they will help you make an informed decision at the polls. Please find below the response we received sorted by constituency and order of receipt. In the case that we did not receive a response from candidates in a ward, we have omitted that ward from the list.

 

Mayoral Candidates

Carla Frost

[Carla Frost did not follow our template and her response is reproduced below as we received it.]

Thank you for contacting me in regards to Police Carding. 

1. Problem. 

      * Police Carding

    *Solution: Police that have a reasonable doubt to question someone, who has been part of a investigation is totally acceptable.

2. *Problem

     * Questioning anyone at random is unacceptable. This induces fear and control into ever day People.

   *Solution:  We work with team council and the public to amend police carding allowing only those who are under investigation or suspects of real interest.

Don Iveson

1) What are the goals of the carding process, as you see them?

First I want to thank the editors of Pyriscence for the opportunity to address the subject of carding. It wouldnt be appropriate for me to comment on the specific goals of the carding practice as I am not a police officer or in any way involved with the operations of the Edmonton Police Service. I believe carding, when exercised appropriately, can be used as a tool in community policing. Through building relationships between police and communities we can work together to make our city safer, but I am not in a position to determine whether carding has a role to play or not. Which is why I fully support the Edmonton Police Commission's decision for an external review of EPS Street Checks.

2) In your opinion, is carding achieving its goals?

Again, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on the operations of the EPS. I have spoken with both Cathy Palmer, Chair of the Edmonton Police Commission and the Chief and they have assured me that they take community concerns about street checks very seriously. I have full confidence that the EPS will openly address any findings from both the Commission’s review and that of the Province.

3) How should EPS address the racial disparity that has been demonstrated in carding statistics?

It is important that the EPS reflect the communities they serve, it is important that we continue to encourage community conversations and diversity initiatives. I believe by listening to the Edmontonians the EPS serve and increasing recruitment efforts in high use areas we will see stronger relationships develop and the need for street checks can be reduced dramatically. 

4) How would you address carding in your role as city councilor?

Given that Council cannot direct the operations of the Edmonton Police Service, I could only encourage the adoption of recommendations and would strongly support the immediate implementation of any measures identified in the Provincial and Police Commission reviews. 

Ward 1

Andrew Knack

1) What are the goals of the carding process, as you see them?

I am told the goal of carding is to provide the police with information that can help to prevent or solve crimes. The purpose is to have access to information of people who are in a particular area that may be witnesses to a particular crime.

2) In your opinion, is carding achieving its goals?

Based off the information I have seen, it doesn't seem like it is working as intended but I am interested in reading through the information that comes back as part of the review.

3) How should EPS address the racial disparity that has been demonstrated in carding statistics?

Engage groups and organizations that represent the communities that are reflected in the statistics. Having those conversations in an open public forum may produce information that can help to address the concerns raised.

4) How would you address carding in your role as city councillor?

I think my role would require that I thoroughly analyze the reviews by both Alberta Justice and the Edmonton Police Commission and then compare those reviews to the other information available. Once that has occurred, then I could provide a more clear response about actions that need to occur in relation to carding.

Ward 6

Tish Prouse

1) What are the goals of the carding process, as you see them?

The goals themselves are not entirely clear. Originally, it was to learn more about who is in the neighbourhood and what people are doing who loiter in a neighbourhood who dont live there. The idea is that this would identify potential problem groups and help police more easily target law-breakers from their law-abiding citizens.

2) In your opinion, is carding achieving its goals?

This doesnt work. It is a method for the police to gather data about anyone, and though I have no problem giving information to the police (knowing that I am not a criminal and would never be involved in crime) many others are unfairly lumped into that category by race, situation, association, and appearance. This is also a huge invasion of privacy to the average, law-abiding citizen.

3) How should EPS address the racial disparity that has been demonstrated in carding statistics? 

Stop carding. There are many people in many communities asking for a return to focus on community beat patrols, specifically out of the smaller sub-stations. While there is a larger cost to this, there is no better way to have a more trusting community than people who know each other, and that includes police knowing the residents, and vice versa. This is the approach which I advocate, and which I think would do our city the best to address the racial disparity when going about their patrols and duties.

4) How would you address carding in your role as city councilor?

I would tell the chief of police to stop the practice. He is, after all, an employee of the city. This is not telling the police how to do their job, but rather which practices I want to see and do not want to see in my town. I know that the police are trying to find the best way to serve and protect our communities, and they get this wrong from time to time, and that is when people like me, a councillor, should make decisions on best practice.

Scott McKeen

[Scott McKeen answered in paragraph form, reproduced as we received it below.]

Thanks so much for the email and questions in regards to “carding” or street checks.

First, let me say that, at my core, I believe everyone deserves to walk the streets of the city without fear of harassment or discrimination. Period.

So I find the resurgence of hate in recent years repugnant. I believe much of it is caused by the overspray of partisan U.S. news, which has emboldened some marginalized, bitter people in our midst.

So now to carding. I sit as a council representative on police commission. The commission has asked for an independent review of police street-check information to determine if policies or practices of the Edmonton Police Service are fair or flawed.

Even critics, I think, recognize that police will stop people in the area of a recent crime. But I believe the commission is concerned about how any information from a street check is stored, shared or used later.

I have considerable confidence in the police commission and its new executive director, who understand civil rights and the need to properly watch over the awesome powers of the police.

No member of the commission wants people to ever be stopped and carded, or pulled over and carded, because of racial profiling.

I was a cop reporter back in the mid- to late-1980s. At that time, the Edmonton Police Service was shifting to “community policing.” The term, as it was used then, referred to a model where a cop was given a geographic area and told to reduce crime, disorder and calls for service in the area.

So she or he was tasked with building relationships with everyone—residents, business owners, vulnerable people, sex-trade workers. I wrote about an officer, Aaron Nichols, who busted up a fledgling crime gang by getting the young men a personal tutor and other supports.

Aaron Nichols belief was that cops needed to treat everyone with respect, even drug dealers, many of whom are addicted themselves and struggling to survive.

But getting to know everyone by chatting them up is quite different than a stern, officious street check. I’m concerned that some local officers might be doing the latter. But commission will ask these questions when the report returns.

The EPS has instituted training around cultural sensitivity. Chief Knecht has an advisory committee made up of people from a variety of faiths, multicultural groups and the LGBTQ community.

Again, the commission is committed and I’m committed to creating a climate of comfort for all citizens. It will be a work in progress, as we continue to investigate and shift police culture, I hope, towards the initial promise of community policing.

Ward 7

Matthew Kleywegt

1) What are the goals of the carding process, as you see them?

I believe the goal is gathering information from “suspicious” people to increase public safety.

2) In your opinion, is carding achieving its goals?

No. It is damaging the reputation, relationship and legitimacy of the Police in the eyes of the public.

3) How should EPS address the racial disparity that has been demonstrated in carding statistics?

We need to stop the practice of carding entirely.

4) How would you address carding in your role as city councillor?

I would introduce a motion to stop this practice.  I would also work with EPS to introduce improved community Policing procedures.

For more information on my thoughts on Carding please see this Blog entry on my webpage.

Mimi Williams

1) What are the goals of the carding process, as you see them?

I am aware of various police services’ stated goals relative to the carding process and I accept none of them. According to an Edmonton Police Service (EPS) news release last June, street checks – the term they use to describe carding - are aimed at “preventing, intervening and suppressing crime, and to further investigations.”
 
In reality, carding disproportionately targets First Nations, Indigenous and Metis men and women, as well as people of colour who – despite not being suspected of any crime – see the deposit of their personal information into a database that is shared to organizations unknown because the police won’t tell us.
 
In reality, carding makes FNIM individuals and POC wary of police and generates distrust in the institutions we have in place which are intended to make us feel safe. 

2) In your opinion, is carding achieving its goals?

I reject the “goals.” Information received through a FOIP (Freedom of Information & Privacy) request submitted by Black Lives Matter Edmonton revealed that the Edmonton Police Service conducted 22,969 street checks involving 20,689 people in 2016. While 56% of those carded were Caucasian, the numbers relative to FNIM individuals was vastly disproportionate to the demographics of our population and vastly disproportionate to known statistics about who are actually committing crime.
If the “goal” is to create further unease with visible minority populations in our city, then it is right on track. If the goal is to prevent and reduce crime, it is failing miserably.

To all those folks who think the matter is no big deal, I ask, “What is it you think when you see police around a FNIM man or woman or POC on the street?” You think they are talking to a criminal. And that perpetuates unsubstantiated stereotypes about the people who are actually not committing the vast majority of crimes in our communities. And that perpetuates racial tensions needlessly.

Next, I ask those folks who think this is no big deal, “What if it was your child? Or brother? Or you? And it kept happening over and over again under the glaring eyes of the people passing? Would you still think it was no big deal?”

3) How should EPS address the racial disparity that has been demonstrated in carding statistics?

I believe that the practice of carding should be banned and that all information obtained through the practice that is not part of an active criminal investigation should be destroyed.

4) How would you address carding in your role as city councillor?

To no avail, I have been talking about and dealing with this issue with the people who are my neighbours, my friends, my children and my children’s friends for decades. To no avail, I have attended community round tables, seminars, press conferences and meetings on the matter for the past year. While our young people joke about being stopped by police for WWI (Walking While Indian) or DWB (Driving While Black), I don’t find it to be a laughing matter at all. 
 
As such, I have been speaking out against this practice, which I believe to be racially discriminatory, for quite some time. I will continue to do so as the elected Councilor for Ward 7. And I will continue to advocate that the Province of Alberta ban the practice province-wide.

Kris Andreychuk

1) What are the goals of the carding process, as you see them?

I am a social worker by training and have spent over a decade working with police. As a result, I believe I have a unique perspective - one that’s based on a variety of professional and practical experiences.

Street checks, when conducted appropriately, can be effective in community policing.

Racism in any form is intolerable in our City. We shouldn’t limit this conversation to one police tactic, but should examine how our city treats marginalized people more globally.

2) In your opinion, is carding achieving its goals?

I see this as the one of the fundamental questions that needs to be addressed during the third-party external review.

3) How should EPS address the racial disparity that has been demonstrated in carding statistics?

I believe we need to avoid widening the gap, creating an “us versus them” narrative and instead, work on improving relationships between police and marginalized groups. I think it’s clear that as a city we can do better - now it’s just a matter of determining how best we do this together.

4) How would you address carding in your role as city councillor?

I see the third-party external review along with the community advisory involvement, as an important opportunity to bring all parties to the table. An airing of concerns from both sides with the expectation that this review will be inclusive and meaningful is, in my mind, the best way forward.

Ward 8

Ben Henderson

1) What are the goals of the carding process, as you see them?

The police claim that their ability to street checks is an important part of their preventative work. I cannot speak to the importance of this from the Police perspective as it is not an area I claim expertise, but the concept of it makes me uncomfortable for reasons that have to do with personal freedoms and issues around the right to privacy. This is quite apart from the concerns about racial imbalance.

2) In your opinion, is carding achieving its goals?

Similar to my answer above I cannot speak to whether it is achieving its goals as I am not convinced that the goals are valid.

3) How should EPS address the racial disparity that has been demonstrated in carding statistics?

Trust between the Police and the community is fundamental to their operation in our society. If that bond of trust is broken with any community, as it clearly has been with visible minorities, then there is a problem that must be resolved.

4) How would you address carding in your role as city councillor?

As a Councillor, according to the Police Act, we are not allowed to direct the Police on issues of this nature. That must be done through the Police Commission that is arms length from both us and the Police. The Police Commission has started the process of bringing in a third party reviewer to give them a report on both the policy and the practises of street checks. I think at this time that is the appropriate next step. When they have that report it should be much clearer what our or their next steps should be. 

Kirsten Goa

1) What are the goals of the carding process, as you see them?

I think the goal of carding is to find out if someone may be wanted, or may be engaged in some sort of criminal activity. 

2) In your opinion, is carding achieving its goals?

No I dont think carding is achieving its goals. 

3) How should EPS address the racial disparity that has been demonstrated in carding statistics?

We need to work with EPS to train police officers using other types of tools that can actually meet their needs. We also need to work with EPS to diversify their ranks and make sure that diversity training is an ongoing part of the professional development of a police officer. 

4) How would you address carding in your role as city councillor?

I would work with the police commission and the province to ban carding. I would also work with these different jurisdictions to work on building capacity in the police force to use alternative tools. I would also want to add checks and balances in terms of transparency and reporting so that any patterns like this could be spotted much sooner. Finally, I would look for ways to support an increase in diversity in our police force, not only through recruitment, but also through training and the workplace culture, so that it could be an enjoyable viable career for a wider group of people. 

Ward 11

Keren Tang

1) What are the goals of the carding process, as you see them?

Asking people for their ID is one way for police officers to identify suspicious activities and prevent crime from occurring. Entering the information in a database is to identify offenders. This is presumably in the name of public safety and healthy communities.

2) In your opinion, is carding achieving its goals?

While well-intentioned, carding has systematically and consistently further marginalized certain communities. According to recent data released from Black Lives Matter Edmonton, Indigenous women and black Canadians are disproportionately carded compared to the rest of the population in Edmonton. This perpetuates the mistrust between police services and racialized and Indigenous communities. Without strong relationships, it would be difficult for police services to carry out their duties for public safety.

3) How should EPS address the racial disparity that has been demonstrated in carding statistics?

  • Build stronger relationships with racialized communities
  • Engage communities through community policing
  • Require cultural sensitivity and unconscious bias training for officers
  • Recruit and retain police officers and cadets from racialized and vulnerable communities

4) How would you address carding in your role as city councillor?

I would prioritize community policing—that means building in-depth relationships with the community. This can assist officers identify suspicious behaviour with knowledge and experience, not based on assumptions and racial profiling. This means prioritizing resources to support community policing.

However, I recognize this requires human resources and training that our current police service does not have. As a City Councillor, I would commit to fighting discrimination and dedicating resources for community policing. Safety is a priority issue that affects all Edmontonians and Ward 11 residents. I want to see stronger relationships between police services and communities. I would work to ensure police commissioners—appointed by City Council—reflect the diversity of Edmonton, to promote relationships and bridge-building with racialized and vulnerable communities.

Troy Pavlek

1) What are the goals of the carding process, as you see them?

I can appreciate the intention of carding. If we temporarily ignore that Canada has a Charter of Rights and Freedoms, then it makes sense from a policing perspective to stop, question and record the ID of anyone they might see on the streets.

In theory a police officer can understand why a person is there in public, and has that individual's information if that person commits a crime later. Any time later, because they'll keep those files around for a long time.

And now, for the remainder of the questions, let us remember that Canada has a Charter of Rights and Freedoms...

2) In your opinion, is carding achieving its goals?

Frankly, it doesn't matter to me. The ends don't justify the means.

Citizens of Canada don't have rights “unless a police officer decides alienating them achieves a goal.” We have rights. Carding leverages the ever-present power dynamic of police vs citizens to question and identify a completely innocent person even though that person "can leave any time".

3) How should EPS address the racial disparity that has been demonstrated in carding statistics?

That's the particularly insidious part of the discussion. Since carding occurs without the police having any reasonable cause to search that person in pursuit of a crime, it reveals a police of approach of both casual and perhaps systematic racism.

Carding is an inappropriate practice regardless of race. But what the practice has revealed about which individuals the police targets when there is no crime to guide their investigation is quite telling.

Is it too naive to say EPS should just knock it off with the racial targeting? It's hard to say what the solution to the problem is without any look inside the EPS as an organization. The police organization is impenetrable from the outside, public view.

The police commission needs to determine whether the choices of who to stop and card is primarily a product of individual patrol officers decision making, or if there is a systematic training approach that causes certain minorities to be disproportionately targeted.

And then that needs to be addressed either with better officer training, or systemic change.

4) How would you address carding in your role as city councillor?

From a rhetoric perspective, I hope it is clear that I stand as a hard “End it. Yesterday.”

However, city council does not have the ability to direct EPS. Two city councillors do sit on the police commission, however, and I think it would be naive to say the EPS has no interest in what city council has to say or what direction they are setting for the city.

If elected, I would work with my colleagues to move us all onto the same page that carding is an unacceptable practice.

With a unified city council opposing police carding, I cannot see the police chief continuing to push back and defend the practice.

 

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