Edmonton police continuing controversial street check practice

EDMONTON – Edmonton police are continuing the practice known as street checks or “carding,” despite new regulations being proposed in Ontario.

Critics argue the practice unfairly profiles people based on race. The Ontario government recently introduced legislation that would regulate the practice, which supporters say will effectively kill street checks.

READ MORE: Ontario drafts new regulations on carding, bans arbitrary police stops of citizens

But Edmonton police say the practice is based on criminal profiling not racial profiling.

Losing the ability to conduct street checks would compromise the ability for officers to do their job, police argue.

“As much as community-based policing is in our DNA, I would almost say or suggest that we move to a relationship-based policing model, where relationships with the community are important on all levels,” said Insp. Dan Jones, EPS Investigative Support Branch, “whether that be our youth, our business owners, our vulnerable population, our criminally involved.”

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READ MORE: Carding ‘wrong and illegal,’ former ombudsman tells Ontario government

Edmonton police officers conduct about 26,000 of these checks per year. Many are simply situations where officers ask people how they’re doing, according to police.

In some cases, officers collect personal identification. The practice is based on criminal profiling not racial profiling, they stress.

Some community groups are defending the practice.

“Had they not checked on me, I probably could have been dead a few times, you know, because there was times where I needed them to check on me,” said Teresa Strong, a former gang member.

“I needed to go to jail for the night and sleep for the night or something because I was so addicted.”

Alberta Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley says community-based policing can build trust and relationships that prevent criminal activity and keep communities safe.

However, in a statement, the minister adds police “are expected to use this tool in accordance with Alberta’s Provincial Policing Standards which indicates policing must be impartial to all persons and service must be provided without regard to race or ethnic origin.”

“I and my office have been in contact with Chief Knecht and I understand the Edmonton Police Service has been examining their practices regarding street checks, including having reached out tot he Alberta Human Rights Commission to ensure they are following best practices. Although we have not received an formal or specific complaints related to street checks, my office has been in contact with the Alberta Human Rights Commission to ensure that policing practices respect the diversity of this province. We will continue to seek guidance from the Commission.” 

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Ganley also says she’s been in contact with RCMP to make sure community policing policies are in line with policing standards regarding impartiality.

With files from Fletcher Kent 

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