Southwestern Ontario hearing on 'carding' being held in London
Londoners are getting a chance to express their opinions on the controversial practice of police street checks or 'carding.'
The Ontario government's Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services is looking to create new regulations for street checks and has asked the public to weigh in.
The Monday night hearing in London is one of five across the province - they have already been held in Ottawa and Brampton - and the only hearing in southwestern Ontario.
The practice of stopping people who are not under arrest or facing charges for questioning has come under fire recently across the province.
Police say it helps them to identify possible offenders, and is voluntary, but critics say many residents may not know their rights and the method disproportionately targets minorities.
Councillor Mo Salih has been a vocal opponent of street checks, saying, "People are more aware of what's going on. Maybe in the past people haven't been aware, or they didn't necessarily know their rights. Now people are becoming educated, and I think a part of that has to do with social media."
Police are defending the checks, but say just being stopped by an officer doesn't mean they are conducting a street check.
London police Chief John Pare explains, "It's about informing them about issues in the community, it's an exchange of information. I think it's important for the public to know the police and the police to know the public. So I don't want it to seem like every time you have an interaction with a police officer it's for an investigative purpose either, because a street check is not always submitted during these interactions."
As part of the review, there are hopes a set of guidelines can be developed to help improve the relationship between police and the public.
"Of course it's important for [police] to be able to do their job, but at the same time, I don't think it should come at the cost of the public trust, because at the end of the day you need the public trust to really make us all safe," Salih says.
Pare agrees, "This review will allow for some standards to be set and some regulations, and ensure that we maintain the trust of the community."