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End to carding is having an impact on violence: police union head

Last Updated Jan 31, 2016 at 8:15 pm EDT

The head of Toronto’s police union said putting a stop to carding is having an impact on the level of violence in the city.

“Anecdotally … we had a broad public policy change around street checks and I think that this is having an impact on our ability to proactively investigate intelligence-led policing,” Mike McCormack, the president of the Toronto Police Association, said Sunday.

“I believe that this having an impact now on the amount of violence now and people carrying firearms,” he added.

Carding, or street checks, is the controversial practice of random and arbitrary stops of citizens who weren’t suspected of any wrongdoing. It was widely criticized as racist, with statistics showing it disproportionately targeted minorities, especially black men.

The Ontario ombudsman ruled that carding is “wrong and illegal” and it violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Last fall, the Ontario government introduced stricter guidelines for street checks.

Knia Singh, a law student and community activist who launched a constitutional challenge against carding, said McCormack’s statement is not true.

To say “stopping carding is causing violence, it’s totally not true,” Singh said Sunday.

“If you analyze the data from 2012, there were 34 shootings [resulting] in death. In 2015, there were 26. That’s a 25 per cent drop with the elimination of carding.So when carding was at its peak, in 2012, there was a higher murder rate by firearm,” he added.

McCormack was speaking after two people were killed and three others were wounded in a shooting in Chinatown. There has been an increase in gun violence this January compared to last year and McCormack said he feared shootings were becoming “more brazen.”

“We need to have properly deployed police officers,” the union president said.

“Until we can get out there and figure out the intelligence we need, the investigations that we need, I think [the violence] will continue.”

Singh said, given the data, McCormack’s comments were irresponsible and inaccurate.

“This small spike, right now, is of concern to public safety, but it’s not related to carding. It’s really irresponsible for McCormack to say that it is.”