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Mayor John Tory's change of heart on carding should have come sooner: Desmond Cole

Desmond Cole says he believes Mayor John Tory was wrong to single him out during a recent mea culpa on the issue police carding.

After months of supporting the practice of carding, Tory did an about-face Sunday, calling for a permanent ban on the "toxic" practice.

Tory claimed to have spoken with author Desmond Cole, whose first-hand account of racial profiling by police served as a rallying point for anti-carding activists, before coming to his decision.

"That's technically true," Cole told Metro."But he should have mentioned that the conversation took place several weeks ago."

By focusing on his story, Cole says he believes the mayor ignored the hundreds of Torontonians who lobbied Tory and the rest of the Police Services Board to end carding to no avail.

"I think John Tory and others should have listened sooner," he said.

Cole believes the real tipping point for Tory came last week, when a coalition of Toronto's elite, including former mayors David Crombie and Barbara Hall, spoke out against the carding.

"A lot of powerful people who are close to John Tory started whispering in his ear and I believe, and this is just my opinion, that that's what turned the mayor," he said.

Cole also said that while a number of individuals deserve credit for opposing carding, much of the work was done by organizations like St. Stephen's Community House or the Weston-Mount Dennis community hub.

"Through these organizations, young people who had been carded were encouraged to come out and talk about what happened to them," he said. "That was an inspiration to me and it gave us the proper context with which to fight an illegitimate police practice."

Three 'concrete' demands

The mayor's change of heart is only the first step in ending carding, Cole said. If Tory and the Police Services board are serious about solving the problem, he believes they must do three things.

First, the police must proactively inform anyone not suspected of a crime that they're under no obligation to speak with officers.

Second, anyone who does submit to a voluntary police check must be issued a detailed receipt. When a similar practice was put into place under former police chief Bill Blair, instances of carding declined by 90 per cent, Cole said.

"If the police are made accountable, they'll stop taking information except when they need it for an investigation," he said.

Finally, Cole wants police to destroy the existing database of carding interactions, which consists primarily of information about innocent Torontonians.

"If we get those three things, we know we're on the way to ending police carding in this city," Cole said.

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