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culture

Torontonians Speak Out About Police Carding

In a new documentary, young men share personal stories about the controversial police practice.

A new short film about the Toronto police’s carding practice—the previously unregulated practice of stopping civilians and documenting their personal information—features first-person testimony from young men who feel they’ve been unfairly targeted by police.

Crisis of Distrust: Police and Community in Toronto explores the controversial practice, which has disproportionately targeted young men of African and Caribbean heritage. Reporter Jim Rankin first revealed the shocking scope of police stops in the Toronto Star‘s “Known To Police” investigative reporting series. After these articles appeared, the Toronto Police Services Board faced intense pressure to regulate or completely abandon the process. Last month, the board opted to reform rather than scrap the program and passed a new policy that regulates carding, severely restricts its use, and requires that police proactively inform civilians of their rights during interactions.

The 30-minute film was produced by local education and advocacy group Policing Literacy Initiative. PLI founder Jamil Jivani told us in an interview that audience reaction falls into two main categories. “For people who are already familiar with the issues, people are happy that we’ve documented a lot of the important facts on the issue, explored it from different angles, and spoken to possible policy solutions,” he said.

“For those unfamiliar with the issue,” he continued, “they are surprised by the extent of the practice. They’re getting an insight into the lives of the young men profiled in the video and may be learning about the police activity in their city for the first time, which is also helpful.”

Jivani added that he’s even received positive feedback from police officers, who he says were impressed by the film’s balanced approach. “There was a fear that we would try to exploit existing tensions and divisions [between police and community]. We genuinely wanted to highlight the progressive voices on all sides,” Jivani said.

Director Dan Epstein is pleased that the film has met with such a positive response. “The premise was originally just to record audio,” Epstein said, recalling his experience with two men who appear in the video and share personal stories of negative police interactions. “But when I walked into the room, I said, if you’re comfortable doing video, we’ll do video. In the end, both of these guys volunteered. I think it’s important to have their faces along with their stories.”


CORRECTION: May 23, 2014, 4:15 PM This post originally stated that Kevin Donovan was the journalist behind the Toronto Star‘s “Known to Police” investigative series; it was in fact Jim Rankin. We regret the error.

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