RACIAL PROFILING: MONTREAL POLICE FINED $22,000 FOR DISCRIMINATORY INTERCEPTION OF TWO BLACK MEN
Montreal, October 23, 2013 --- The Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission has ordered the City of Montreal to pay $22,000 in damages to two Black brothers subjected to discriminatory interception and treatment.
The recent decision relates to an incident in September 2007, when two men in their twenties drove downtown in their Mercedes sports car to go shopping on a Saturday afternoon. They were initially stopped by two female police officers of the SPVM who claimed that the men were engaging in reckless driving (which they denied) and were revving the engine (which, according to the two men, was impossible given the car model). During the interception, one of the officers asked the passenger to show his ID, which he refused to do because such a request is against the law.
After the first interception, the two men continued driving, but were soon followed by a second police car, driven by two male officers, for more than seven blocks downtown. Finally, when the men parked on Drummond Street above St-Catherine Street, the police car which followed them stopped in the middle of the street, parallel to the Mercedes.
The two brothers approached the police car and asked if there was a problem. They were told that everything was correct and returned to the sidewalk. The police officers, who had driven away, suddenly backed up the street to intercept the two young men and fine them for walking on the street.
Realizing that the fine was an excuse to identify them, the same day the two brothers mandated CRARR to file complaints of racial profiling and police ethics violations against the four officers.
Five years later, in 2012, the Police Ethics Committee ruled that the male officers had brought an unjustified charge against the two brothers, and that they had acted illegally. The tribunal imposed on the officers a suspension of seven days and five days’ suspension without pay. “The officers obtained the men’s identification in this underhand way […] which they subsequently transmitted to the relevant authorities,” wrote the Committee. The Police Ethics Commissioner had ruled out the racial profiling dimension of the complaint against the two male officers, without explanation, before summoning the two officers before the Police Ethics Committee.
The complaint against the two female officers was dropped after conciliation with the Police Ethics Commissioner.
One of the key elements of racial profiling in this case is the two male officers’ defense regarding the two fines given to the brothers. According to the officers, the tickets were issued to raise awareness among pedestrians downtown about the Highway Safety Code. However, the Human Rights Commission investigation revealed that “on that day [a sunny Saturday afternoon], those were the only two tickets issued to pedestrians downtown”.
The City of Montreal had until October 4, 2013, to comply with the Commission’s recommendation for the $22,000 damages, failing which the case will be likely brought before the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal.
The Commission is expected to issue its decision regarding the two female officers at the beginning of November.