VANCOUVER – An internal report from the Vancouver Police Department recommends an overhaul of the use of random street checks, even though the review finds “no statistical basis” to conclude officers use the checks to discriminate against certain races.
The report’s six recommendations include calls to formalize existing street check standards, make street check data public and continue training sessions to ensure officers stay within their legal authority when conducting the checks.
Police Chief Adam Palmer commissioned the study following complaints earlier this year from the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs about the checks, also referred to as “carding.”
During a check, a person is stopped and officers obtain and record their identification and other personal information, even though no particular offence has occurred.
Advocacy groups wanted B.C.’s police complaint commissioner to investigate an apparent racial disparity linked to carding, pointing to data showing Indigenous people make up 15 per cent of street checks, yet form just two per cent of the population.
Palmer’s decision to proceed with an internal review was called “problematic” by the civil liberties association but a spokesman said Wednesday that the report’s recommendations show the department has acknowledged problems with carding.
“This is a start,” said Josh Paterson, the association’s executive director.
“(The police) recognize there’s an issue, they recognize it’s important to better understand the perception of the communities they serve in relation to their work. So they are essentially saying there is more work that needs to be done,” he said in an interview.
“We agree. What they propose here is not enough to get to the answers that are required.”
The findings of the internal report will be considered by the Vancouver Police Board at its meeting Wednesday.
The report says the analysis does not contain anything to suggest people are checked because of their ethnicity.
“However, there is a lot to suggest that people are checked as a result of their actions,” it says.
Street checks are used infrequently, says the report, and it calls carding a “valuable proactive policing tool for ensuring public safety.”
Police report well-being checks may account for the apparently high rate of carding of Indigenous women, which the civil liberties group said made up 21 per cent of all checks of women in 2016, although Indigenous women only account for two per cent of Vancouver’s female population.
Among the initiative proposed in the report for the carding process is a call to find a new way to record a well-being check, removing it from the tally of street checks, potentially allowing for better oversight of checks on vulnerable citizens.
The report also seeks expansion of the Indigenous Liaison role, creating a dedicated resource for Indigenous people or those with questions about street checks, and it calls for development of a new public education initiative.
The education component would offer details about what street checks are, and why and how they are used by police, the report says.