Police Chief Mark Saunders appears to be ruling out the abolishment of carding, despite an earlier promise to keep an open mind on the issue.

Saunders had previously said that he would seek input from community members about the controversial practice and would be “open to whatever is going to be best for the city.”

On Wednesday, however, the new police chief was asked by reporters about whether he would consider ending carding altogether and seemed to indicate that abolishment isn’t on the table.

“Abolishing it is not the way in which we are going to say ‘everything is going to be better,’” he said.

Carding, wherein police stop and collect information from people who are not under arrest, has increasingly come under fire by opponents who say that visible minorities, particularly young black youth, are disproportionately targeted.

Last month the Toronto Police Service board did change its policy on carding, prohibiting officers from considering “race, place of origin, age, colour, ethnic origin, gender identity or gender expression” when deciding whether to stop someone, however many have said more drastic changes are needed.

Speaking with attendees at the African Canadian Summit on Wednesday morning, Saunders said he “knows that African Canadians have a completely different experience living in Canada” than others and said the community, the TPS included, needs to see “what it can do collectively” to make that experience better.

Saunders then promised to remove the word random from the police lexicon.

“It is not going to happen overnight. If anyone in here thinks tomorrow is a new day it is not,” he said. “I need your help in order to make this happen.”

Though Saunders has expressed openness to changing the policy on carding, his aversion to eliminate the practice altogether drew considerable scorn from community advocates on Wednesday.

“We are disappointed. He said in a room full of African Canadian leaders that he was committed to listening and that he was committed to working with our community in addressing the issue of carding. Soon thereafter he reneged on that in the presence of the media,” African Canadian Legal Clinic Executive Director Margaret Parsons told CP24. “The community is asking for it to be completely abolished. We don’t see the value of carding. We are not saying that you can’t target individuals who are impacting community safety but what we are seeing is blanket carding of young African Canadians and that is very problematic.”

Saunders, who is the city’s first black police chief, officially took over the job on Sunday.

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