JOEL DEBELLEFEUILLE FILED REQUEST TO POLICE ETHICS COMMISSIONER TO APPEAL TRIBUNAL DECISION ON RACIAL PROFILING
Montréal, October 19, 2016 - Mr. Joel Debellefeuille has filed a request to the Police Ethics Commissioner to appeal the Police Ethics Committee's decision to drop the Commissioner’s citations against two Longueuil police officers who had engaged in racial profiling.
The two officers, Dominic Polidoro, who is White, and Jean-Claude Bleu Voua, who is Black, tailed Mr. Debellefeuille for 11 blocks when he was driving his son and his wife in his BMW to daycare in Brossard, back in 2012, before they finally intercepted him for an ID check in front of the daycare center.
Mr. Debellefeuille mandated CRARR to file a police ethics complaint and a civil rights complaint against both officers. After investigating, the Commissioner cited both officers, in 2014, for racial discrimination/profiling and failure to respect the law before the Police Ethics Committee.
The Commissioner decided to withdraw the citations after being unable to locate Bleu Voua, who has since been fired by the City in 2015 after being found guilty of driving under the influence. This former officer, who is of African background, has apparently left Canada.
Mr. Debellefeuille had no option but to follow the Commission's application to the Police Ethics Committee to withdraw the case. He did not “agree” with said action, contrary to what the Committee wrote in its Decision, since his original complaint focused on officer Polidoro who drove the police vehicle and who demanded to see his ID. The Black officer was on the passenger side and had little interaction with Mr. Debellefeuille.
In a decision released at the end of September, the Committee, an administrative tribunal set up to rule on police misconduct complaints, dismissed the case. Mr. Debellefeuille had wanted the case to proceed because, in his opinion, officer Polidoro should still be held accountable for having participated in race-based acts with Bleu Voua. However, the Commissioner detains all evidence (in this case, police radio communication recordings, the respondents’ daily activities report, and police database checks) and is the sole party to bring a case before the Committee. Mr. Debellefeuille had no choice but to follow the Commissioner's decision (the Committee's decision states that Mr. Debellefeuille “agrees” with it, which is incorrect).
On the basis of this error, Mr. Debellefeuille asked the Commissioner to appeal. He also stressed in his request that the Committee erroneously overstated the importance of Bleu Voua, whereas the main focus of his complaint was about officer Polidoro who drove the police car and who came out of the vehicle to demand Mr. Debellefeuille’s ID.
Mr.Debellefeuille also challenged the view that Bleu Voua’s presence is required for the Commissioner to meet his burden of proof. However, this reasoning implies that the Committee could not lend credibility to the testimonies of himself, his wife, and the director of the daycare.
“The Commissioner should have proceeded with officer Polidoro, who, incidentally, did not participate in the Commissioner’s investigation into my complaint against him,” said Mr.Debellefeuille. “The Commissioner needs to ask officer Polidoro for his version of the incident. The fact that his partner is not there to corroborate his version is his problem because there are important principles such as shared responsibility and accountability.”
In helping Mr. Debellefeuille prepare his request for appeal, CRARR makes reference to case law on racial profiling with regard to the test on credibility and reliability of witness testimony in a case where the words of one police officer are contrasted with those of the Black citizen, as confirmed by the Ontario Court of Appeal in a 2012 racial profiling case.
“The Commissioner could have proceeded and see what kind of actual explanations officer Polidoro could provide to the tribunal, and then determine whether ‘an inference of discrimination is more probable from the evidence than the actual explanations offered by officer Polidoro, as the courts have decided,” said CRARR Executive Director Fo Niemi.
“Otherwise, the decision not to proceed can be seen as giving the officer an easy way out and avoiding jurisprudential progress on racial profiling in Quebec,” he concluded.