[URBAN NOTE] “Peel Regional Police Chief Jennifer Evans under fire for refusal to end carding”
The Globe and Mail‘s Sean Fine looks at the controversy surrounding the refusal Peel Regional Police Chief Jennifer Evans to stop the much-criticized–justly much-criticized, I think–policy of carding.
She started as a 19-year-old cadet with Peel Regional Police and grew up in the force. But, by her own account, the most important moments in the education of Chief Jennifer Evans happened during her work outside the force – at inquiries into why police failed to stop Canada’s most notorious serial killers. Asked to examine the cases of Robert Pickton and Paul Bernardo, Chief Evans concluded that communication failures allowed both men to continue to target women.
Yet today, the 53-year-old chief finds herself under fire for the very thing she learned to value most: the collection and sharing of information. She says her ability to listen is a point of pride, but her critics say she doesn’t hear them.
The conflict can be traced to the racially charged issue of carding. The Peel force has called the practice “street checks” or “street interviews” since it officially began in 1993. Now it is simply the “collection of identifying information.” The civilian board that oversees the force – the chief’s boss – passed a motion last year asking her to suspend the practice, no matter what it’s called. She told the board no.
Chief Evans, one of just a handful of female police leaders in Canada, says she was hired for her decision-making ability. And, though her $289,000-a-year contract is up for renewal next October, she is not one for backing down.
The dispute over carding has sparked a wider debate over whether the Peel force is in step with the times and the community it serves. The country’s third-largest municipal force has had to examine its own demographics – four out of five officers are white, though Peel Region, which comprises the town of Caledon and the cities of Brampton and Mississauga, is the country’s most multiracial (57 per cent are minorities) – and account for a reputation for violating people’s rights. Chief Evans is feeling the heat from the police board, the mayors in her region and community groups who question whether she is standing in the way of change.