I have been closely watching the exchange between Mike McCormick, the head of the Toronto Police Association and Desmond Cole, activist and writer. Since the discussion they are having around crime and carding is related to my major research paper for my master’s degree.
The comments coming from McCormick are erroneous and absurd, there is absolutely no data linking carding or street checks to the reduction of crime. It was cringe worthy to see him debate with Cole on CityNews and just repeat false information. During a previous interview, McCormick made an outlandish statement on the provincial ban on carding and how to due to the ban this is the reason for the current spike in gun violence in the city.
Here is what we know, “racial discrimination has long been an issue within Canadian society – particularly with respect to the operation of the criminal justice system” (as cited in Mosher, 1998, p. 305)
Carding and street checks are the manifestation of racial discrimination in the justice system due to that these processes are solely used on marginalized communities; those who are disabled and are visible minorities. So to say that the practice of carding does not discriminate is inaccurate. Skolnick (1966) discover that “police in the United States tend to perceive young, black males as ‘symbolic assailants’ and thus stop and question them on the street as a means of ‘crime prevention” (p. 402). From this observation, we can already see the criminalization of black and brown bodies. In a Canadian study about stop and search practices in Canada, Owusu-Benmpah & Wortley (2011) note that similar practices and racialization exist within the Canadian police environment. Through a survey, they discovered “blacks are over three times more likely to experience multiple police stops than whites or Asians and are three times more likely to report being searched during these police encounters” (402).
Simply, carding does not reduce or prevent crimes from taking place
What is more troubling is, the police forces and the government have not released data around carding and crime prevention. This creates a lot of question around the practice and what it being done if there is a lack of data. Are they simply practicing this due to the criminalization and black bodies or is there evidence supporting this? Henry and Tator (2005) refer to this as democratic racism:
An ideology that permits the emergence of two seemingly conflicting sets of values: a public commitment to racial justice and equality on one hand, but a refusal to seriously investigate and address racial inequalities and potential racial bias when these issues emerge (p. 349).
Owusu-Benmpah and Wortley (2011) state that the government and police forces withholding information on carding and street checks are a form of democratic racism. They go on to say that police forces, government, and the criminal justice system continue to ignore questions around carding because there is no empirical data. For all we know, the criminal justice system and carding are inherently racist.
Police forces and the criminal justice system needs to take a different approach when it comes to crime prevention and serving the community. Continuing these practices will create communities that fear the police and the authority due to these practices.
You can watch the debate between McCormick and Cole here.