Regina Police Service (RPS) is adopting a new provincial policy that outlines what officers can and can’t do when approaching people on the street.
In February, Regina police updated its policy on contact interviews to reflect the new guidelines from the Saskatchewan Police Commission (SPC).
Contact interviews are conversations between an officer and another person, initiated by police. They can only happen if someone’s showing suspicious behavior or if there is concern for safety. Contact interviews can’t be conducted based on a person’s race, religion, age or gender.
The SPC policy stems from controversy over a practice known as carding. Carding happens when officers approach someone on the street and ask for their I.D. and other personal information. Many see the practice as random, racially biased and often used without reasonable cause.
Bray says RPS has never taken part in carding. Regina officers have been conducting contact interviews for years, but the new policy formalizes the force’s actions.
“This is a sound policy that codifies the traditional activities of the police service and how they interact with the public,” Mayor Michael Fougere said.
Under the SPC policy, officers will have to log each contact interview. Every year RPS will have to submit the number of interviews, the reasons for them and if the person cooperated to SPC.
Bray says contact interviews aren’t about collecting names and addresses, but rather they are used as a tool to prevent and solve crime.
“Sometimes the mere presence in an area might defer or deter crime from happening in that area,” Bray said.
Contact interviews are voluntary and people have the right to walk away from the officer without answering questions. But Bray says it’s not standard procedure for officers to tell people that it’s not obligatory to speak to them. Although, in most situations officers would express those rights.
“Officers are constantly assessing the situation. In some cases they may develop grounds to detain a person based on what they see, observe or hear,” Bray said. “Other times there may be a conversation that is stopped because the person doesn’t want to continue.”
If someone feels like their rights were violated during a contact interview, they can lodge a public complaint.
After a year, RPS will review its results to see if any contact interviews fueled investigations.