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Montréal, June 6, 2017 — After five court appearances in the last 20 months to fight a ticket he received from two local police officers in what is considered to be a Driving While Black/racial profiling incident, a Longueuil Black resident can now feel relieved.

Yesterday, the city prosecutor dropped the case due to delays.

Joel Debellefeuille, who has fought the Longueuil police for racial profiling since 2009, was stopped in October 2015 when driving home in his BMW. When he drove in the parking lot of a motel where his family was temporarily staying pending the move to a new home, he was stopped by two Longueuil police officers and then fined $126 for driving with a 16 year-old minor who did not wear a seatbelt.

The only problem is that he was alone in the car, as his wife and a friend who were present at the scene of the stop attested. The ticket was later changed to him driving without a seatbelt.

Believing that he had been stopped for being a Black man driving a BMW, he mandated CRARR to file a police ethics complaint and a civil rights complaint on his behalf. This is the third time he filed such complaints.

The 2009 stop, which led to a lengthy court battle that involved a successful appeal to the Quebec Superior Court of the first Municipal Court decision, and a second 66-page Municipal Court decision that found him to be a victim of racial profiling and that dismissed the charge. The two officers were also held responsible by the Police Ethics Committee for biased misconduct and each received a 5-day suspension without pay.

In 2012, he once again asked CRARR to file complaints against two police officers who were tailing him for 11 blocks when he was driving his toddler to daycare. In 2016, the Police Ethics Commissioner cited the two officers involved for racial profiling before the Police Ethics Committee. However, one of the two officers had been found guilty of a criminal charge prior to the hearing and left the country. This led to the Commissioner’s decision to not pursue the case, despite Mr. Debellefeuille’s request.

For this third incident of October 2015, Mr. Debellefeuille has appeared in court since 2016 to contest the case. On three occasions, the hearing was postponed due to the key officer’s lack of availability, vacation or sick leave. Another time, it was postponed by Mr. Debellefeuille who was out of the country getting married.

Last Friday, the fifth hearing, he appeared and waited with his wife for three hours. The city prosecutor advised the judge that a “special room” will be required in order to accommodate the hearing of Mr. Debellefeuille; mentioning that it would take longer than two hours, and requesting then a postponement till Monday June 5th, at which time; only a date for his hearing will be established and not the actual hearing. The city prosecutor claimed other longer hearings before his case prevented the city from proceeding.

“The delays begin to become unreasonable because they cause Mr. Debellefeuille tangible prejudice, requiring him to adjust his work schedule and spend needless time, money and energy preparing for the court,” noted CRARR’s Executive Director Fo Niemi.

The frequent postponement also causes delays with his police ethics and civil rights complaints.

“While courts in recent months are becoming increasingly vigilant and intolerant of long delays in criminal proceedings, due to the Supreme Court's ruling in the Jordan case, we believe that the delays in his penal case could also throw the Longueuil administration of justice into disrepute,” noted Mr. Niemi. “We are of course happy that the Jordan ruling appears to be behind the prosecutor's decision to drop the charge.”

The main police officer involved in the October 2015 incident was found last year by the Police Ethics Committee to have illegally detained a Black male driver in Longueuil back in 2013, and suspended for one day without pay.

Ironically, this officer’s partner in that 2013 incident, who was also suspended for illegal detention and illegal request for identification, is none other than the very same officer who, in the 2009 incident, stopped Mr. Debellefeuille and wrote in his report that “the vehicle belongs to a certain Debellefeuille, Joel. It was a Black man who did not correspond at first sight to be the owner. Debellefeuille sounds like a Québécois family name and not of another origin.”