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Montréal, July 8, 2017 — Two Laval police officers who tailed and then violently arrested, handcuffed, and fined a 39-year-old English-speaking Black man with a physical disability for videotaping them last month, have confirmed in their report that they deleted his cell phone recording of the intervention.

At around 10:30 AM on May 14, 2017, Pradel Content, a Black man who walks with a cane and who has lived for 17 years in Florida, was driving his Cadillac Escalade in Laval, on Des Laurentides Blvd. to a gas station to buy cigarettes before going home. He saw a police vehicle going in the opposite direction. Upon passing each other, Content saw in the rear-view mirror that the police vehicle made an abrupt U-turn to tail him. Content proceeded to the gas station and saw that the police vehicle had followed him and continued to drive past him.

Content parked his car at the service station, got out of his car with his cane and cell phone, and walked towards the street to record the police vehicle driving by.

Since June 2016, given the frequency with which he has been stopped by the Laval police, he began recording these stops as a way to document these Driving While Black incidents and to protect himself.

The police vehicle turned into the parking lot and drove towards him. Officer Boutin got out of the vehicle, rushed towards Content, slapped the phone off his hands, and proceeded to aggressively push him towards the latter's car, while yelling at his female partner, Officer Lavoie not to allow anyone to record what was happening. Officer Boutin then grabbed Content, slammed him against Content's car and handcuffed him, saying he would be going to jail. When Content asked what for, Officer Boutin said, “for videotaping” him.

After being shoved inside the police vehicle despite his visible disability, Content was sarcastically told by Officer Boutin that he was “handicapped in the head.” Content was eventually given a fine of $127 for using a telephone while driving. Content was then taken out of the police vehicle and while uncuffing him, Officer Boutin told him he should be glad he is in Quebec and not in the U.S. “because they shoot people like you there”.

Content tried to obtain the officer's names but was denied and simply told by Officer Lavoie that the information is in the ticket. After the officers left, Content asked a gas station clerk for a copy of the video recording but was told to come back the next day when the manager would be present. Content wanted to show the clerk the recording he took on his phone, but he could not find the video, leading Content to conclude that the officers had erased the recording on his phone during the intervention. He did manage to obtain the gas station's video recording of the incident.

Content obtained CRARR's help to file a complaint with the Police Ethics Commissioner for several police ethics violations including racial profiling, excessive use of force, unjustified fine, and negligence regarding his health, and another complaint with the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission for racial profiling and discrimination based on race intersecting with disability.

Last week, Content obtained a copy of the police report from the Laval Municipal Court, which further threw him off balance. In this police report, Officer Boutin states outright that during the detention of Content, the “vidéo a été supprimé du telephone.”

“I am shocked by the things the officers wrote in the report”, said Content. “It shows, among other things, how the officers had no consideration at all of my visible disability, which makes it a worse case of police brutality against a disabled person, ” he said.

According to CRARR Executive Director Fo Niemi, “this is one case too many of the police deliberately and recklessly disregarding a Black man's visible disability during an intervention, as if the officers saw only race and nothing else.”

“We hope that the Police Ethics Commissioner will act firmly in this case, in light of a February 2017 court decision (Larochelle v. Sarno, which also involves the Laval Police Department) that declared illegal the erasure of any video recording during a police intervention.”

Three years ago, Content was arrested while walking with two White and Asian friends, in downtown Montreal in a case of vague race-based suspect description and mistaken identity. The police officers in that case roughly arrested him while ignoring his plea for attention to his back injury, and ignored his cane during the arrest. The case is still before the Human Rights Commission. His police ethics complaint was closed, due to the Police Ethics Commissioner's conclusion that he “cannot expect to establish by a preponderance of evidence” his allegations of discrimination based on race and disability, excessive force, and showing lack of concern for his well-being despite his walking with a cane.

Read the Larochelle v. Sarno decision (in French only):

CQ Larochelle c. Sarno 2017qccq2225.pdf333.88 KB