ABUSIVE ARREST AND FINE OF ARAB CONCORDIA STUDENT: TWO MONTREAL POLICERS SUSPENDED FOR ONE DAY EACH
Montreal, December 3, 2014 --- More than four years after being violently arrested and abusively fined by two Montreal police officers on her way home from the university library, former Concordia University student, Amal Asmar has finally obtained some justice for her ordeal.
In a decision made public on November 19, 2014, the Quebec Police Ethics Committee, a specialized tribunal, imposed on officers Sébastien Champoux and Michael McIntyre, one day of suspension for each, and a blame in their employee record.
Back in February 2010, Ms. Asmar, who is of Arab descent, was walking to a friend’s home late at night from Concordia’s downtown Webster library. As she sat down on a bench near the bus stop on Saint-Catherine and Atwater, a police car pulled up and officers Champoux and McIntyre began aggressively questioning her and then demanding her ID.
When she asked whether she had done something wrong, both officers got out of the car and told her that the way she was using the bench was against the law. Surprised, she asked them what they meant, to which they replied that the bench is not for placing her school bag (the officers wrote in their report that she had five bags spread all over the bench, when she had only two; her school bag and a plastic bag containing her lunch). When she inquired as to what law she might be breaking, the officers told her she was being arrested.
They then seized her, grabbing her arms, dragged her to the cruiser, slammed her against the hood, and handcuffed her. Both officers twisted her arms up and away from her body, causing her to scream out in agony. They proceeded to frisk her, threw her into the police car, and then searched her belongings.
When a police supervisor appeared on the scene, the officers told him that they had driven up to her and that she had immediately started screaming like a crazy person. The officers also indicated to the supervisor that she was the woman who had placed a bogus 9-1-1 call earlier, which led them to intervene in the first place.
After the Supervisor left, the officers released Ms. Asmar after flinging her bags to the ground. When she asked for their badge numbers as well as their names to file a complaint, she was told that this information would be on the tickets. Without further explanation, the officers quickly drove off.
Left to gather her strewn belongings from the ground, she discovered two tickets tucked into her agenda: one for $620 for misuse of municipal property and the other, $420, for having made a loud noise other than yelling.
In intense physical pain and stress, she had to seek medical attention the following day and lose one week of school.
Through the Concordia Student Union’s Legal Information Clinic, she solicited CRARR's help to file a complaint against the two officers with the Police Ethics Commissioner, alleging numerous violations, including racial profiling; illegal detention and arrest; unlawful use of force; and abuse of authority by knowingly filing penal charges without justification. She also blamed the police supervisor for failure to ensure that her arrest and her detention were legal.
CRARR also filed a civil rights complaint on her behalf with the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission, seeking more than $25,000 in damages against the two officers and their employer, the City of Montreal.
Negative national media coverage of the incident (particularly by The Suburban and its publisher Beryl Wajsman) and public reactions led the City of Montreal to drop the fines against her.
After investigating her complaint, the Police Ethics Commissioner initially filed several charges of police ethics violations against the officers, for lack of politeness, illegal arrest, illegal use of force, illegal search and illegal detention towards Ms. Asmar. Officer McIntyre was specifically cited for failing to intervene while Officer Champoux was cited for providing false or incorrect information to the supervisor. An additional citation was added later against both officers for issuing to Ms. Asmar two fines.
Before the Police Ethics Committee, both officers accepted the citations of lack of politeness, illegal use of force, illegal detention and abuse of power. While dismissing the charge for providing misleading information to the supervisor, the Committee imposed a blame on both officers for lack of politeness, and a one-day suspension without pay for each of the three other charges.
However, while recognizing that the officers “did not respect the authority of the law”, it took into account their voluntary admission of misconduct and ordered that the three one-day suspensions be served concurrently, which brings to a total of one day.
“Looking back on the night of that shocking violent incident, and at where we've arrived today, I see it as a small breakthrough, since one day of suspension is not the kind of sanction one expects in this case. Justice has been delayed, but I continue to be optimistic about my civil rights case,” said Ms. Asmar.
“I look forward to seeing the Human Rights Commission take into account evidence of racial profiling, something which the police ethics process did not do adequately.”
A part of the Committee’s delay in issuing its ruling was due to Ms. Asmar’s application to the Superior Court for judicial review of the Committee’s initial dismissal of the racial profiling claim. After more than 12 months, the Court rejected her application without providing a detailed reasoning on racial profiling.