Fondé en 1983 --Unis pour la diversité et l'égalité raciale

DRIVING WHILE BLACK: JOEL DEBELLEFEUILLE SCORES ANOTHER VICTORY AGAINST LONGUEUIL POLICE FOR RACIAL PROFILING



Montréal, April 24, 2018 - The City of Longueuil should pay Joel Debellefeuille $12,000 in damages for having profiled him, said the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission.

In a decision sent to the parties last week, the City is asked by the Commission to pay Debellefeuille $10,000 in moral damages and $2,000 in punitive damages. It is also asked to provide training on racial profiling to its police officers and provide a formal evaluation of training outcomes, and to update its 2015-2017 Action Plan against racism and discrimination (https://www.longueuil.quebec/fr/diversite)

“It has been six years since I was profiled, and I am of course pleased with the Commission's decision that is, once again, an indictment of the Longueuil Police for its racial profiling practices, and of the City of Longueuil for obvious inaction against racism,” Debellefeuille said.

In March 2012, Debellefeuille was driving his son in his BMW to a daycare center in Brossard, while his wife sat in the passenger's side of the car, when two Longueuil police officers, Jean-Claude Bleu Voua (who is Black) and Dominic Polidoro, who were driving in the opposite direction, made a U-turn and tailed Debellefeuille's car for 11 blocks.

When Debellefeuille stopped his car in front of the daycare center and carried his son inside, the police car drove on and made a U-turn to intercept him.

Officer Polidoro demanded to see his ID. Debellefeuille informed him that he was still carrying his son to go inside. When he came back outside, Debellefeuille gave his ID to Officer Polidoro and asked the reason for the ID check. Officer Polidoro informed him that he and his colleague just wanted to “verify.” At one point, the head of the daycare center came out and expressed her displeasure at the way the officers conducted the stop and check. The officers left after checking Debellefeuille's ID.

Debellefeuille then mandated CRARR to file a police ethics complaint and a civil rights complaint against the officers. After investigating, the Police Ethics Commissioner cited both officers, and named Officer Bleu Voua in particular, for racial discrimination/profiling, and failure to respect the law, before the Police Ethics Committee.

However, Officer Bleu Voua was found guilty of driving under the influence in 2014 and was dismissed by the City of Longueuil in 2015. The whereabouts of Officer Bleu Voua are presently unknown.

Officer Bleu Voua's situation led the Commissioner to drop the case in 2016. Debellefeuille had wanted the case to proceed because, in his opinion, Officer Polidoro should still assume his share of responsibility for having participated in race-based acts with Officer Bleu Voua.

This is the second time that Debellefeuille has brought complaints of racial profiling against Longueuil police officers. In Debellefeuille's first case of “Driving While Black” in 2009, the Committee imposed, in 2012, a five-day suspension without pay on the two officers (who are different from the officers involved in the 2012 incident) who stopped him while driving his BMW because one officer wrote in his report, “the vehicle belongs to a certain Debellefeuille, Joel. It was a Black man who did not correspond at first sight to the owner. Debellefeuille sounds like a Québécois family name and not of another origin.”

“We believe that the amount of damages should be higher since the 2012 incident was not the first racial profiling case against the City, and that the City of Longueuil does not seem to take its institutional responsibility seriously regarding concrete actions against racial discrimination and profiling since 2011,” CRARR's Executive Director Fo Niemi said.

“For example, its Action Plan does not contain a definition of racial profiling. Furthermore, there are no results being reported anywhere on things actually done by the City since 2015, other than a nicely prepared document and symbolic declarations, ” Niemi added.

“As long as the City is playing ostrich with racial profiling, it will be faced with complaints and lawsuits. The City, especially Brossard and Greenfield Park, is very diverse, but the City Council and the administration are not, and that is an inevitable recipe for more conflict and discrimination,” Debellefeuille noted.

Debellefeuille also has a third civil rights complaint filed against two other Longueuil police officers due to another “Driving While Black” interception in October 2015. This case is still under investigation by the Commissioner and the Commission.

The City has until April 27 to comply with the Commission's recommendations, failing which the case will go to the Human Rights Tribunal.