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Montréal, September 7, 2018 - A Black woman is accusing the Montreal Police (SPVM) of obstructing the Police Ethics Commissioner’s investigation into her complaint of police officers’ misconduct since it did not cooperate in good faith with the Commissioner’s office.

Last April, Shelay Paris, an English-speaking Black worker at a local women’s shelter, was expelled from a Salvation Army store on Notre-Dame West after a store employee refused to let her mother and her shop at the store for unclear reasons. Four police officers arrived on the scene in response to the store’s call and forcibly escorted the two women out of the premises after refusing to listen to Paris’ version. Paris had complained that the store employee took picture of her mother and her without their consent, and even grabbed Paris’ arm.

One of the officers told them “be calm for once in your life” and another called them “racist girls” in a loud tone that could be heard by all shoppers in the store, when Paris told the officers that their expulsion from the store was a racially discriminatory act.

As soon as she got home, Paris called Police Station 15 to file a complaint against the officers. A certain sergeant Rivest called her back to tell her that an inquiry into her complaint would be initiated. A few weeks having passed without hearing back from him. Paris called Sgt. Rivest towards the end of May. Rivest told her that he had spoken to two officers who were at the scene of the incident and that Paris’ complaint would be added to their files. However, he declined to give Paris the officers’ names, but he gave her the call number (7207).

Skeptical about Rivest’s handling of her complaint, Paris sought CRARR’s help for the filing, in June, of a complaint with the Police Ethics Commissioner against the officers, particularly the one who had called her mother and her “racist girls.”

In mid-August, she received a letter from Deputy Police Ethics Commissioner Hélène Tremblay that the Commissioner’s office could not “formally identify all the police officer(s) affected by [her] complaint” from “summary checks made to the police department concerned.”

Recalling that Sgt. Rivest had told her that he had spoken to two of the officers involved, the Deputy Commissioner’s letter made Paris suspect that her original complaint to the SPVM was not seriously handled, and that Rivest’s reassurance that her complaint was being added to the officers’ files, was a smokescreen.

“I couldn’t believe how all the records of my calls to Station 15 and my conversations with Sgt. Rivest, could have disappeared. Someone inside the SPVM trying to shield the officers from the Commissioner’s investigation of misconduct, I think”, said Paris.

“This incident raises questions about the SPVM’s handling of citizens’ complaints and about its sincerity in cooperating with a Police Ethics Commissioner’s investigation. It smacks of obstruction”, she noted.

“We find it very strange if not outright suspect the Montreal Police Department’s allegation that it was not able to provide to the Police Ethics Commissioner the identification of four officers who were known to be in a precise location at a precise time and the subjects of a formal complaint addressed to an identified police station in the hours following the incident,” said Alain Babineau, a former police officer and a law intern at CRARR.

“In light of the recent statement by the Police Ethics Commissioner regarding the SPVM’s failure to notify his office of police ethics violations against Indigenous people, we wonder whether the same practice exists within the SPVM when racialized people are involved,” Babineau added.

“If this is indeed the case, then one can assume there is some kind of systemic obstruction by the SPVM of the Commissioner’s investigative authority, and that this will further undermine public confidence in the SPVM in general,” Babineau noted.

“It is precisely to combat this kind of systemic practices that CRARR has actively worked on the launching of a public consultation on systemic racism and discrimination in Montreal, and we will place this issue very high on the public consultation agenda,” Babineau concluded.