A report examining the Edmonton Police Service’s use of street checks has recommended the force increase its diversity, monitor for inappropriate stops and initiate a public dialogue around the practice sometimes referred to as carding.
The 300-plus page report was released on Wednesday by the Edmonton Police Commission, which oversees the Edmonton police force and is comprised of city councillors and members of the community.
The commission announced the review in July, shortly after Black Lives Matter Edmonton obtained street-check data from the police force through a Freedom of Information request. The group released a report that found people who were black or Indigenous were more likely to be subjected to street checks than individuals who were white.
The Globe and Mail this month reported Vancouver police’s use of street checks disproportionately involved individuals who were Indigenous or black. The issue of street checks drew attention in Ontario after complaints about privacy violations, and police were accused of disproportionately targeting minorities.
The commission’s review was led by Curt Griffiths, a professor of criminology at Simon Fraser University. The report said that while people who were Indigenous or visible minorities were street checked more often than individuals who were white, it was not possible to determine whether the figures were the result of racial profiling and biased policing. The report said a more detailed analysis than the data currently allows would be needed to make such findings.
The report said in the majority of the cases reviewed, Edmonton officers had the lawful authority to conduct a street check. However, it said the enforcement of bylaws, such as loitering, defective bike equipment, “interfering with park furniture” and “interfering with grass,” could be highly selective.
Mr. Griffiths, speaking at a news conference, said there is confusion among Edmonton residents when it comes to the purpose of street checks. He said there is also a perception that officers have engaged in racial profiling and individuals who have been stopped have felt they were not treated fairly.
Mr. Griffiths said there is a value to street checks and officers told him information from the stops has helped with investigations.
Edmonton officers have, he said, maintained they do not profile people but instead profile situations. A situation that might lead to a street check, he said, would be a person riding a bike at 3 a.m. in an area that has had a high number of break-and-enters.
Edmonton Police Chief Rod Knecht, speaking after the report’s release, said street checks are a valuable tool and contribute to the overall safety of the community. He said officers do not target people by ethnicity. The chief also noted the report did not make a finding of racial profiling or biased policing.
He said the police force will continue to monitor and improve the way it does street checks, as it does with every other aspect of policing. He said street checks could be conducted in a more empathetic fashion with more information provided.
Bashir Mohamed, policing co-chair for Black Lives Matter Edmonton, in an interview said he was uncertain why the report did not make a finding of racial profiling.
Mr. Mohamed expressed alarm at a section of the report that said street checks had previously been used as a performance measure, though the report said that practice has since been discontinued.
The report said street checks can assist in maintaining the safety and security of the community “when properly conducted.”