The Alberta government has put a province-wide ban on the practice of police carding and has established new rules for common interactions between police and the public.
The changes, which were announced on Thursday by the province’s Minister of Justice, Kaycee Madu, are part of the province’s action on police reform and making changes to provincial policing standards.
Alberta police are now banned from randomly and arbitrarily stopping members of the public and asking for personal information – a practice known as carding.
The province says the new provisions also establish clear rules for other common encounters – known as street checks – to ensure police officers respect the rights of citizens when requesting personal information.
The government says it is moving swiftly in response to concerns that carding and street checks disproportionately target members of racialized and marginalized communities.
“Members of Indigenous, Black, and other racialized communities in Alberta expressed concerns about carding and street checks, and we have a responsibility to act on those legitimate concerns,” said Minister Madu. “The Government of Alberta supports the dedication and courage of the province’s police officers, and this historic change ensures they will continue to serve and protect our communities with the full trust and confidence of all Albertans.”
The Alberta government’s ban on carding will ensure consistency across the province. The government says the new rules on street checks were developed in consultation with the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police, and recognize the value of street checks as an investigative tool for police officers to build relationships in the community while investigating crime.
The new rules state that officers can collect personal information from members of the public only in specific circumstances, such as asking about a crime that has taken place, as these interactions will be voluntary. Officers must make it clear at the outset of the interaction that citizens have no obligation to provide their personal information or answer questions.
“It is great to see the Alberta government’s commitment to true reconciliation,” said Siksika Nation Chief Ouray Crowfoot. “Banning carding and establishing clear rules for common interactions between police and the public will ensure the rights of all Albertans are protected. We’ve been asking for these changes for years and want to acknowledge this government’s leadership by standing with us against racism.”
Police services will now be required to train officers to comply with the new rules and provide public education to help ensure that citizens know their rights when interacting with the police. The public awareness requirements for police services include holding information sessions with community groups, making information available on their websites, and developing communications strategies to inform the public via social media and in various languages.
The province says new records management and oversight requirements will ensure police services comply with the new street check rules. Police services must conduct internal reviews of street check data four times a year, and provide annual reports to the Alberta government.
The updated measures have the support of Dale McFee, President of the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police.
“The Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police is in full support of the province’s guidelines on street checks. While the practice of carding has no place in policing, street checks are a valuable investigative tool that allows police officers to develop street-level intelligence while balancing the rights of all Albertans. It is important that every member of the public is treated with respect and in a fair manner, and we believe that setting these standards across the province will achieve this while strengthening relationships with the communities we serve.”
The new rules are effective immediately, and the government will formalize them by including them in amendments to the Police Service Regulation in 2021.