DISABLED BLACK MAN VIOLENTLY DETAINED BY MONTREAL POLICE WITHOUT EXPLANATION OR APOLOGY
Montreal, June 5, 2014 --- Another case of mistaken identity in downtown Montreal involving the violent detention of a young disabled Anglophone Black man by Montreal’s police officers highlights once again the safety risks faced by Black men in the city.
This case illustrates the problem with the police practice known as “Any Negro Will Do”, whereby police officers act upon a vague race-based suspect description to detain and arrest Black men who may not even fit the suspect’s profile. According to the identified pattern, Black men are mistakenly detained by the police, often violently and at gunpoint, and can sustain serious physical and psychological damage as a result. During the arrest, they do not have their constitutional rights read to them and afterwards they do not receive either an apology nor medical care, even when the physical injuries are evident.
The case of Jeffery (not his real name), a 36-year old, English–speaking, Black male who wears shoulder-length dreadlocks and who is afflicted by numerous health ailments, the most obvious of which is his dependence on a cane to walk, is a perfect illustration of this institutionalized “Any Negro Will Do” mindset.
In late March, 2014, in the evening, Jeffery was walking near Atwater metro with three of his friends (one Asian, one Black, and one White), all of whom are in their mid-20s. They were on their way to a nearby venue for a concert.
Without warning, Jeffery’s right arm was forcefully grabbed by a White male police officer. In a state of shock, Jeffery asked the officer what he was doing and why. The officer said that he was looking for a white cell phone and thought Jeffery might have it. Consequently, Jeffery pulled out his cell phone, showed it to the officer, and stated that it is black – a fact which the officer undoubtedly observed.
Subsequently, and without explanation, Jeffery was then dragged and shoved against a police van (by this officer and others) and searched. During the search, he was also continuously told that he would be going to jail. Due to the tremendous amount of force the officers used on him during the incident, Jeffery sustained injuries to his neck, back, right leg, and left shoulder. He has also experienced a worsening of his already chronic pain condition. During the arrest, the officers disregarded his plea for attention – attention which he desperately needed due to the pain he was in given his disability.
It should be noted that (out of the three friends) only Jeffery’s Black friend was also grabbed, detained and searched.
Jeffery was eventually released without an apology, or a single question pertaining to his well-being, despite his visible suffering. His physical condition has worsened following the incident.
With the assistance of CRARR, Jeffery has filed a complaint with Quebec’s Police Ethics Commissioner and will soon file a complaint with Quebec’s Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission.
In 2009, CRARR released a study about the ”Any Will Do“ practice and called on the police services as well as the Human Rights Commission and the Police Ethics Commissioner to address the risks of vague race-based suspect description, as circulated via police radio and other communications, that often result in innocent Black and other racialized men being the wrongful target of violent police interventions.
“ [Jeffery], at the very least, deserved an apology. He was wrongfully detained, arrested, and unnecessarily brutalized. The professional thing to do – the humane thing to do – is apologize ,“ noted Stephen De Four-Wyre, a McGill law graduate working on the case at CRARR.
To date, no public agency has recognized the “Any Negro Will Do” practice as a serious threat to Black men’s security and integrity of the person. Public agencies continue to ignore the systemic dimension of this potential life-threatening practice of circulating vague race-based suspect description by limiting their focus on the individual police officers’ conduct, which is often deemed justified due to the kind of 911 information and other police radio data being received and used by the department and for which officers should not be held personally liable.
In 1990, Marcellus François, a 24 year-old 5ft tall Black man with short hair, was shot in head and killed at Square Victoria, downtown Montreal, by a police officer who mistook him for a 6ft Black male suspect with long hair, in part due to the poor quality of the suspect’s photographs being circulated by fax.