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Montréal, July 4, 2017 — A Cote-des-Neiges Black resident who was violently arrested by the police last February due to mistaken identity is outraged to have been notified by the Police Ethics Commissioner that his complaint has been dismissed because, in the Commissioner's opinion, the officers did nothing wrong.

On February 18, 2017, Errol Burke left his apartment to buy milk at a nearby dépanneur. As he was about to enter the dépanneur, he heard shouting and turned around to see two police officers running towards him with their handguns pointed at him. Despite the fact that he immediately raised his hands and did everything possible to signal his intention to comply with the officers, Mr. Burke was immediately slammed face-first against the door of the store.

For several seconds, he was pinned to the wall of the dépanneur. Then a third officer grabbed his head and violently jerked it backwards, causing him to fall back-first onto the cement ground. He was subsequently dragged away from the dépanneur, pinned down, and tightly handcuffed. The officers later realized that they had arrested the wrong man, and told him he could go.

The officers' use of force caused him great physical pain that required him to seek medical help the day after. Back and neck pain created major discomfort for days. In addition, he experienced stress and anxiety, problems with sleeping, and a total distrust of the police.

With CRARR's help, Burke filed a complaint with the Police Ethics Commissioner, citing the concerned officers for race-based discrimination and profiling, excessive use of force, lack of concern regarding the health and safety of a person in their custody, and being impolite. What he finds most unacceptable is the fact that after the violent take-down, and after the officers realized that they got the wrong man, no one offered him any sort of apology, whatsoever: “not one of the six to eight officers present asked me if I was hurt or if I needed any help.”

“I may more or less understand the police officers' error of jumping on the wrong Black man, since to non-Black people, we all look alike,” said Burke.

“But I have a big problem with the fact that the Commissioner remained completely silent about the part of my complaint over the police's lack of care or concern for my well-being after my arrest, ” lamented Burke. “That's a way of condoning the police's disregard for Black lives.”

“The “Any N- Will Do” practice is one of the most dangerous police practices that occur more than many authorities are willing to admit,” CRARR's Executive Director Fo Niemi said.

“Any N- Will Do” is a term used in the United States during the civil rights years to refer to a police practice that targets any Black person on a basis of a vague race-based suspect description (such as “a Black Man”) in police communications that has the effect of casting a wide net on all persons of a particular race in an area, and that often results in exposing these innocent persons to potentially harmful police arrests.

In 2009, CRARR produced a report on this common practice, calling for the use of more physical descriptors of a suspect, such as skin tone, age, height and weight, in order to reduce violent police interventions based on a mistaken identity.

“In addition to a video recording, there were two eyewitnesses in the store where Mr. Burke was taken down, so we are puzzled that the Deputy Commissioner discounted this fact, just like the way she ignored the lack of concern and care for Mr. Burke's health on the part of the arresting officers after they realized they got the wrong man,” Niemi concluded.