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


Montréal, December 23, 2019 —Two Montreal police officers have been found guilty by the Police Ethics Committee of sixteen police ethics violations and mistreatments of a Black man, which include illegal stop and arrest, as well as erasing the content of his video camera which captured the intervention.

The incident occurred on Westminster St. in Montreal-West in early March 2017, at around 10:30 pm. Kenrick McRae was waiting in his Mercedes while his female companion was doing a financial transaction at a bank ATM, when a police car was moving in the opposite direction. Upon seeing him, the police car stopped parallel with McRae’s car, then made a U-turn and positioned itself behind his vehicle. As he began to drive away with his friend, McRae was pulled over by officers Christian Benoît and Philippe Bernard-Thomassin.

When McRae asked Bernard-Thomassin if racial profiling was the reason for the stop, the latter said that he was stopped to verify if the car he was driving belonged to him. Bernard-Thomassin took McRae’s papers and returned to his vehicle. After checking the papers, Bernard-Thomassin changed the reason for stopping McRae, informing him that he was stopped because his vehicle license plate lights were not working. McRae decided to exit his vehicle to verify this claim, and used his camcorder to prove that the license plate lights were working.

When McRae told Benoît and Bernard-Thomassin that he was to file a complaint, one of the officers asked him to hand over his camcorder. Upon asking them why they wanted his camcorder, the officers proceeded to detain and handcuff him. McRae was then placed under arrest for “disturbing the peace.”

McRae was then placed in the back of the police car, and his camcorder taken from him. A short time later, another police car arrived and was followed later by two additional supervisors' vans. Approximately 8 police officers were now at the scene.

While in the back seat of the police vehicle and still handcuffed, McRae observed Benoît and Bernard-Thomassin examining his camcorder and then proceeding to erase the recordings. He tried to talk to one of the supervisors about the situation, but the latter refused to listen to him.

Benoît and Bernard-Thomassin did not find anything to charge him with and released him. They gave McRae back his camcorder and told him to leave. McRae and his companion immediately checked his camcorder and discovered that his recording of the incident and of several previous encounters with the police had been erased.

When he got home, he called 911 to file a report. A certain Sgt. Joseph returned his call, but McRae recognized that it was the same supervisor who was at the scene and who refused to listen to him. McRae hung up and called 911 again to ask for another senior officer. This time, a different person returned his call and took his report.

In a 31-page decision dated December 18, the Committee ruled that Benoît and Bernard-Thomassin engaged in many illegal acts, including racial profiling, and respectively breached 9 and 7 provisions of the Code of Ethics for Police Officers.

The Committee challenged the two officers’ “unlikely testimony” (“témoignage invraisemblable”) when both said at the hearing that they did not do a U-turn to intercept McRae’s car, that they did not know who was driving the car, and that the interception was to see whether the car owner had an invalid driver’s license.

In addition, the Committee ruled that both officers illegally detained, arrested and used handcuffs on McRae; illegally searched and erased his camera, and filed a false report. Officer Benoît was found guilty of two more police ethics violations, intimidating McRae and illegal seizure of his camera.

“This is the best Christmas present I’ve ever received!”, McRae said.

“As a Black man driving a Mercedes, I have been stopped, detained and even fined so many times, so this is the first time that the law is on my side and clearly ruled that I have been a target of racial profiling and so many other illegal police practices. I am of course elated,” he added.

“We are pleased that the judge took judicial notice of the reality of racial profiling and police conduct associated with the practice. The judge was also perplexed and confused as to why the officers thought Mr. McRae posed a threat to them! We know the answer: The stereotype of the “dangerous Black man”!, said CRARR Advisor Alain Babineau.

“This decision also confirms that these two officers are part of a system which allows what they did to McRae to be tolerated, covered up and supported when challenged! This is a first rate example of systemic racial profiling. The supervisor should have also been held accountable under the law,” Babineau noted.

CRARR did include Supervisor Joseph in the police ethics complaint; however the Commissioner decided not to cite him. In a civil rights complaint regarding this incident that McRae filed with the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission, Benoît, Bernard-Thomassin and Joseph are named as respondents. The complaint is currently under investigation.

In a few months, the Police Ethics Committee will issue a ruling on the sanctions to be applied to Benoît and Bernard-Thomassin.

McRae has an active police ethics complaint regarding last summer's “Cleaning His Car While Black” incident. He also has a third civil rights complaint with the Human Rights Commission over another “Driving While Black” case in August 2017, when he was stopped in Lachine for, according to the officer, driving his car without a license plate.