Police Carding in Toronto

There’s been a lot of talk in Toronto about the practice of “carding” where police stop people on the street and ask for ID. A number of events have converged to make it a hot-button topic: the practice came up for review, we got a new police chief, Mark Saunders (and given his racial profile, there was some hope he might be an ally to those who are typically on the receiving end of the practice), and police treatment of blacks in Ferguson and Baltimore have had a lot of media play north of the border. As illustrated by this piece in the Globe & Mail, the issue is usually framed in terms of race. However, as my lens discovered earlier this week, it affects other vulnerable people too.

Toronto Police Carding Panhandler

I watched this police officer card a couple (presumably homeless) white guys panhandling on the Danforth. Here, the seated man has just produced his ID and is waving his wallet in my direction. The police officer gives him the thumbs up. To be fair, the officer was courteous and well-spoken and seemed genuinely concerned that the man was okay. Even so, it must be intimidating to be approached in this way by a uniformed person. How many people know that compliance is voluntary? Knowing that, how many people are willing to assert their (constitutionally guaranteed) right to refuse?

One of the ironies of this photograph is that I shot it, not with my discreet mirrorless camera, but with my big honking Mark III. The police officer could not have not noticed me taking it. And yet I walked past undisturbed. I wonder why that is …

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One Comment

  1. Diane May 9, 2015 at 9:56 am #

    I am horrified by the fact that carding is even a topic of concern in 2015. Again another interesting view through your lens.