A Double-Edged Sword: Carding, Public Safety, and the Impact of Racialized Police Practices

AuthorScot Wortley
ChAPTeR 11
A Double-Edged Sword
Carding, Public Safety, and the Impact
of Racialized Police Practices
scot WortLEy*
Stop and search. Stop and frisk. Stop and account. Street checks. Field
interrogations. Community engagements. Carding. Over the past t wo
decades these terms have come to dominate both academic and public
discourse on policing throughout North America and Europe. A ll of these
terms refer to the police practice of stopping civilians — drivers, passen-
gers, and pedestrians — for proactive investigation. Proactive investiga-
tion refers to the fact that of‌f‌icers usually decide to make these stops at
their own discretion — they are not responding to a specif‌ic criminal
event or reacting to a particular call for service. During such encounters,
the police often ask civilians to produce formal identif‌ication and explain
their presence in the community. Evidence also suggests that, during these
stops, the police often “frisk” or pat-down civilians — under the pre-
tense of of‌f‌icer safety — or ask civilians to submit to a consent search.
Legal critics frequently challenge the lawfu lness of such stops and argue
that they violate basic civil rights. However, much of the debate centres
around evidence that suggests that Blacks, Aboriginals, and other racial
minority groups are much more likely to be subjected to police stop and
search tactics than people of White or European backgrounds. This pat-
tern is highly consistent with allegations of racial prof‌iling. This paper
will begin by brief‌ly rev iewing the research literature on police racial
prof‌iling in Canada. The paper will then discuss the potential utility of
police stop and search tactics from a public safety perspective. It will
* Scot Wortley is an assoc iate professor of criminology w ith the Centre for Criminology
& Sociolegal Stud ies, University of Toronto.

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