A street check is when a police officer asks someone for identifying information (ID) in a particular type of situation. The Ontario Government has developed specific rules that officers conducting street checks must follow in certain circumstances. 

Rules Apply

If an officer asks you to identify yourself when they are:

  • looking into suspicious activities
  • gathering intelligence
  • investigating general criminal activity in the community

Rules Do Not Apply

If the officer is:

  • talking to a driver during a traffic stop
  • arresting or detaining you
  • executing a warrant
  • investigating a specific crime

The Rules

If a police officer asks you for ID in a situation when the rules apply, they must have a reason, which cannot be:

  • based on race
  • arbitrary (not meaningful)
  • only because you are in a high-crime area
  • because you refused to answer a question or walked away

The office must also:

  • tell you why they want your identifying information
  • tell you that you can refuse to give identifying information

The officer must offer you a receipt – even if you refuse to share information – that includes:

  • the officer’s name
  • the officer’s badge number
  • how to contact the Office of the Independent Police Review Director, which handles complaints about police in Ontario
  • who to contact to access personal information about you that the police service has on file
  • keep detailed records of their interaction with you – even if you refuse to share information

If a police officer does not follow these rules, it is a Code of Conduct violation under the Police Services Act and they may be disciplined.

Exceptions

In rare cases, if following these rules above could negatively affect an investigation, threaten public safety or force officers to reveal confidential information, police officers may not have to:

  • tell you why they are asking for information – for example, the reason involves a tip from a confidential informant
  • tell you that you have the right to refuse giving ID – for example, the officer suspects a car passenger may be a victim of human trafficking
  • give you a receipt from the interaction – for example, the officer receives an urgent call for service and must quickly end the interaction

 In these cases the officer must record their reason for not following the rule.

Managing data

Identifying information collected under these rules must be restricted five years after being entered into a database. No one can access restricted information without permission from the chief of police.

Each police service must regularly review records and – if an officer didn’t comply with the regulation – access to that information must be restricted immediately.

Each year, police services must produce and share a report with the public that includes:

  • information about how many times officers tried to collect ID
  • how often police relied on exemptions from the rules
  • demographics (age, sex, race) about the people police tried to collect ID from  

Training

All police in Ontario who may collect ID receive training on these rules. This training also includes topics such as:

  • individual rights
  • unlawful detention
  • discrimination
  • bias awareness

Officers must refresh their training at least every three years.