John Tory finally calls for an end to carding in Toronto
John Tory has finally come out against carding. In a searching letter delivered to the press on Sunday afternoon, the mayor indicated his intention to cancel the practice permanently at the next meeting of the Police Services Board on June 18.
Tory wants a "fresh start," which means he'll also call for the expungement of records relating to previous carding interactions that have been stored in a police database. "The personal stories I've heard in recent months and even before, the words, laden with deeply-felt emotion, have been building up in my conscience and they have stuck with me," the mayor wrote in explanation of his change of heart.
It's worth noting that the mayor refers directly to Desmond Cole in his statement of intention. Cole, you will remember, wrote a powerful piece on the detrimental effects of carding and has fiercely advocated for its end in Toronto. Tory and his staff, it would appear, were listening.
Read Tory's full statement below.
I want to start by saying that I believe in the men and women of the Toronto Police Service. I believe in their professionalism. I believe in their good intentions. I believe they are good people trying to do a very difficult job.
I also believe we have to find a more acceptable way to engage the community because that is a good thing -- and by engaging the community I mean the police having a great relationship with people, every single citizen in the City of Toronto -- and the police need to do this in order to help keep our city safe.
The fact is, however, the best investigative tool the police have is the trust of the people that they serve and protect.
There are a number of ways to reduce crime, but the best way is when the police and the community work together.
The issue of community engagements, or carding as it has become known, has eroded public trust to a level that is clearly unacceptable.
As mayor, it is up to me to do whatever I can do to restore that trust.
I believe that our police can do their jobs and keep this city safe through improved tools and stronger mechanisms -- through stronger relationships with the communities they serve, greater transparency and better training -- but carding wont get us there.
And so I am announcing today my intention, at the next meeting of the police services board on June 18, to seek the permanent cancellation of carding once and for all.
I will also be seeking to further the work already done by Chief Saunders with a goal of putting in place strict measures dealing with the treatment of collected data. I think most of this as it relates to random encounters with innocent citizens could in fact be eliminated.
As many of you will know, a moratorium on carding has been in place since January and Chief Saunders has been working to significantly reduce random encounters unconnected to any criminal activity.
It is my intention to see that carding is cancelled permanently and that we start fresh, building what Torontonians and the world would expect of us, this very special place. And that is a way of working together befitting a country whose values are founded on respect for individual and human rights and befitting a safe city that is a model to the world in respecting diversity and building a bias-free community -- rules and procedures which rest on that foundation and ensure that the police can do their job.
But to get there, it has become obvious to me that we have to start with a clean slate.
I have said before, this issue has been among the most personally agonizing for me during my short tenure as mayor.
What I had hoped to do, my original intention, was to give the process time to bring forward a new and better way of addressing police-community engagements and delivering on our universally shared goal of bias-free policing, a goal I know that our police chief and our police officers all share.
I believed in light of the stalemate that I inherited when I took office that some policy that moved us forward was better than the stalemate and the vacuum that I found when I got there. I thought putting in place some oversight was crucial. And I thought we could make progress on real reform, but that progress was elusive despite the good-faith efforts of many.
The personal stories I've heard in recent months and even before, the words, laden with deeply-felt emotion, have been building up in my conscience and they have stuck with me.
And the impact has been magnified by my very longstanding, close and mutually-respectful relationship with our own black community. I don't have a relationship that is as important, or any more important to me, than the relationship, the friendship that I have built up over many years with that community.
And so after great personal reflection, and many discussions -- highlighted by a very candid, thoughtful discussion with a number of people including Desmond Cole and others -- I've concluded that time has gone on too long and that it was time for me to say, enough.
It was time to acknowledge that there is no real way to fix a practice which has come to be regarded as illegitimate, disrespectful and hurtful. It was better to start over with a clean slate.
Over the next few months, I am hopeful that my board colleagues and I can work with Chief Saunders and with the police officers and with the community to achieve our shared objective of putting in place an approach that will both help keep crime low in every neighbourhood in this city, while protecting the fundamental rights of every citizen at the same time.
The only approach that is acceptable is one that achieves both of those goals.
We will work towards the goal of bias-free policing, implement better training, improve accountability and find ways to broaden and deepen police-community relations.
Across North America, cities are dealing with issues of safety and trust -- especially when it comes to interactions between police and racialized communities.
And while the practice that I will now seek to replace has been shown to often negatively and harmfully affect those communities in particular, issues of trust, issues of respect and issues of public safety affect all of us, in every neighbourhood, in every part of this great city.
Toronto has always led the way when it comes to issues of diversity and inclusion and respect, as well as excellent, effective and respectful policing. We have been leaders in those areas always.
And today, I am here to assure the public that with the help of the community and the men and women of the Toronto Police Service, Toronto will continue to lead the way. We'll be able to put something in place that will, again, be a model to the world of how it can be done and how it should be done.
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