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Mayor John Tory, right, talks to Police Chief Mark Saunders at a meeting of the Toronto Police Services Board on June 18.

Chris Young/The Globe and Mail

The civilian board that oversees Toronto police has restored the year-old policy around carding that sparked months of intense private negotiation and public battles.

The unanimous decision by the Toronto Police Services Board on Thursday also reverses its vote earlier this spring to pass a weaker version of that 2014 policy.

Mayor John Tory, a member of the board who had voted this past April in favour of weakening the policy, said Thursday that he was not afraid of not only changing his mind but changing it on the fly.

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Carding is the police practice of stopping people on the street and recording their personal information in a database. Critics, particularly from Toronto's black community, say it unfairly targets racial minorities and that it constitutes arbitrary detention. The 2014 policy passed again Thursday restricts the practice: Among other measures, it requires officers to issue receipts for every interaction, and it is meant to allow carding stops only to help with specific investigations rather than more vague public safety reasons.

Mr. Tory had reversed his position on the issue last week by calling for the cancellation of carding altogether and the development of a new policy from scratch.

But Mr. Tory said at the Thursday board meeting he would bow to the request of citizens and legal experts who had just told the board they wanted the 2014 policy back after putting a lot of work into it.

"The presentations were intelligent and they were rational and they were reasonable and they were sensible," said Mr. Tory.

He had also heard from his fellow board members, some of whom have maintained their support for the 2014 policy, as well as city councillors, he said.

"I will say that I'm never afraid to admit that I'm influenced by what I hear them say. … That's the way the world is supposed to work," he said.

When the same policy was passed last year, it was never implemented, with then-chief Bill Blair entering a standoff with the board over how to change carding. They had mediated talks this winter, coming up with the compromise policy.

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Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders, who took command of the force in April, said he hasn't had time to review the 2014 policy and can't say how long it will take to implement it or whether all its measures can in fact be implemented. However, he said he wants to end all "arbitrary" police stops.

"I'm fully committed to putting out a procedure that is within the guidelines of the policy," he said.

Chief Saunders has said Toronto Police need to hold onto the historical data collected through carding – on more than a million people – for legal and other reasons, but he said Thursday that the information won't be accessible to the service, and is now being taken "off the grid."

Carding critics at the meeting said they wanted further changes to the 2014 policy, but that it's an improvement over starting from scratch, as Mr. Tory had suggested.

"You've heard from so many legal professionals," Toronto resident Knia Singh told the board. Mr. Singh has launched a Charter challenge against the police force over his own carding interactions.

"We talk about a clean slate, we talk about going back, but we've done the work already," he said.

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Councillor Shelley Carroll, a member of the board, said the failure to implement the policy last year stemmed from "misinformation" among the force about what it would demand of officers, particularly around their obligations to inform people of their rights in every interaction.

The province is also beginning its own consultations to draft provincewide regulations around carding and street checks, as they're called elsewhere. Mr. Tory told reporters that enacting the 2014 policy will provide an interim solution until the province's details are revealed.

Mr. Tory defined the practice of carding Thursday as "the arbitrary stopping of people for reasons unrelated to any criminal or lawful investigation, and recording information from those people and storage of that information in a database of innocent people over a long-term basis."

Using that definition, he said, "I believe today will represent a definitive end to carding."

With a report from Ann Hui.

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