Using Examples Such as the Arrest of Col. Russell Williams Key Factor Towards Higher Support
MISSISSAUGA, ON, Aug. 20, 2015 /CNW/ - An online survey of 1,350 people conducted by the firm ResearchEtc. for the Police Association of Ontario (PAO) found support increased for street checks/carding when specific examples were given to illustrate how the practice led to, or aided in the investigation of a known suspect.
"There is a lot of confusion about what the procedure is and how it helps investigations," says PAO President, Bruce Chapman. "For example, 71% of respondents (N=1324) did not know/unsure a street check on Highway 37 identified Russell Williams as their prime suspect when his car tire matched the track left at the property where Jessica Lloyd was abducted."
Chapman said when Ontarians were provided with a clear illustration of how necessary street checks and carding are to police investigations, public opinion shifts towards support. He cautions that while the Russell Williams case is a highly sensationalized case, there are thousands of successful convictions generated from street checks/carding that never make it in the media.
"The arrest of Hells Angels members in Ottawa, the identification and arrest of the driver of a car that killed an autistic boy in Mississauga and an early morning stop of a man convicted of a brutal sexual assault in Peterborough that found he was in breach of his release condition are just some of the thousand examples that demonstrate the need for an effective intelligence gathering tool," says Chapman. "We support the need for a standardized process across the province, but removing it altogether for a media headline will dramatically hinder our ability to solve crime."
"When we asked a broad-based question of a respondent's level of support about street checks and carding, the result was initially 36% opposed, 40% neutral and 24% supported the practice," says PAO Executive Director, Stephen Reid. "After we used the Russell Williams stop at a street check as an example of how this practice led to his arrest, support changed dramatically – opposition to the practice dropped to 18%, 43% remained neutral and support for street checks/carding increases to 40%."
Did you know that carding or street checks often are used to solve crimes and generate leads that solve crimes, and that this practice has led to numerous arrests, including high profile criminals such as Paul Bernardo and Russell Williams, the former Colonel of the Canadian Forces who was convicted of sexual assault and murder?
PAO agrees there should be a process that is consistent across the province, including a proper communication process between an officer and an individual. The PAO also suggests the province may want to look at technology that shares information between polices services throughout the province.
Some cases that included street checks/carding:
- street check dated 8 April 2011 by an officer - assisted in identifying a drug stash house overseen by a Hells Angels member - street check dated 9 May 2011 by an officer - provided valuable and timely intelligence regarding a Hells Angels member who was a principal target of the project
- street check dated 16 November 2013 by an officer - assisted in corroborating source information and physical surveillance of multiple targets of the investigation including a visiting Hells Angels member from British Columbia - street check dated 1 December 2013 by an officer - provided valuable links between targets of the investigation and corroborated source information - street check dated 6 September 2014 by an officer - provided timely intelligence regarding visiting Hells Angels members from Toronto area
Steven Yeardley was the subject of a public alert that had the police issue a warning that he was a dangerous offender, which came with a curfew that he was not be outside between 10pm and 6am. Yeardley was convicted of a brutal sexual assault in 2007.
A street check in Peterborough at 4am by an officer who noticed a couple of individuals were evading her as she was driving around led to identifying who he was and an arrest for breaching conditions.
A police officer responded to complaint about a car parked near a protected fishing area in Mississauga, 200 metres from Celia Zhang's home. Min Chen (who lived in Scarborough) was one of the occupants in the car and the officer took their information (carding) and released them, as there was no reason to detain.
A month later, Celia Zhang disappeared from her home and was subsequently murdered. The boarder at the home gave a statement that she had a visit by Min Chen at the home once. This, with the intelligence gathered from his parked car near the home a month prior led to identifying Min Chen as a prime suspect.
Sample size: 1,310 all over Ontario
We would like your opinion on another police issue called "carding" or "street checks". This is the practice of officers stopping, questioning and collecting information on people without arresting them. Are you aware or have you heard of this before?
a. Yes – 60%
b. No – 32%
c. Don't know/ Not sure – 8%
Regardless of your current knowledge on this issue and just generally speaking, (before example of Russell Williams was given) how much do you support or oppose the police practice of carding or performing random street checks?
40% Neutral/don't know
Now that you know this (using the example of Russell Williams), how much do you support or oppose the police practice of carding or performing random street checks?
43% Neutral/don't know
SOURCE Police Association of Ontario
For further information: Bruce Chapman, PAO President, Cell: 905-599-4813; Stephen Reid, Executive Director, Cell: 416-435-4455