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Montreal, May 9, 2019 — Due to misconduct towards an Arab driver, a Montreal police officer has been suspended for two days without pay.

In a decision dated April 26, the Police Ethics Committee ruled that Officer Sanjay Vig committed three breaches of the Code of Ethics of Quebec Police Officers: ordering a security deposit without issuing a ticket beforehand; making an illegal arrest; and using illegal force.

On July 18, 2012, Khalid El-Dabbagh was stopped by Officer Vig for driving across a solid white line on Acadie, near Crémazie. After Vig received El-Dabbagh's driver's license and saw that his license plate was from Alberta (El-Dabbagh had just moved back to Quebec), he told El-Dabbagh to pay a security deposit due to concerns that the latter might go back and not pay the fine.

El-Dabbagh refused to pay the deposit. Vig told Mr. El-Dabbagh he was under arrest for obstruction and refusing to pay the deposit. As El-Dabbagh refused to come out of his car, Vig forcibly removed El-Dabbagh from his car with the help of his partner. El-Dabbagh, who is officially disabled with major back disk problems, was then thrown to the ground and then brought to a detention center. He later received three fines worth $820.

After contesting his tickets, El-Dabbagh was found guilty of crossing a solid line (a $303 fine) but acquitted of obstruction and not having the insurance or registration papers in the car.

In its decision, the Police Ethics Committee noted that despite his 12-year record of service, Vig violated the Code of Penal Procedure when he asked El-Dabbagh to provide him with a security deposit before ever issuing him an actual ticket.

Although security deposits can be asked by officers in situations where he or she has reasonable grounds to believe the driver will leave Quebec without paying their fine, deposits can only be asked for after a ticket has been issued to the driver.

Ruling that his error is “grave” and that it is an “unacceptable ignorance of the law”, the Committee stated that Vig should have consulted a superior if he believed that he lacked training on this issue. Since the Committee observed that Vig did not act legally regarding the deposit requirement, it ruled that Vig's arrest of El-Dabbagh was illegal, as well as his use of force on the latter.

Ultimately, Vig was sanctioned for the three separate charges and received two days of suspension without pay for each charge. However, the three sanctions are to be imposed concurrently, meaning that instead of being suspended for 6 days without pay, he will only be suspended for 2 days without pay. The Committee did not explain why it imposed a concurrent condition.

“While Mr. El-Dabbagh is pleased that the Committee imposed these sanctions on the officer, he is at a loss as to why it allowed the suspensions to be served concurrently,” said CRARR's Executive Director Fo Niemi, speaking on behalf of El-Dabbagh.

CRARR assisted El-Dabbagh in his complaint against the officer, which was first rejected by the Police Ethics Commissioner. It successfully helped El-Dabbagh file an appeal, which led to the Commissioner to cite Vig for professional misconduct.

“When a police officer is deemed to have engaged in an illegal arrest and an illegal use of force on a citizen, with or without a disability, due to the officer's ignorance of the law, the sanctions should be strong and clear in order to deter such police conduct,” Niemi concluded.