Fondé en 1983 --Unis pour la diversité et l'égalité raciale


Montreal, January 23, 2011---The Quebec Police Ethics Commissioner has upheld most of the complaint filed by Concordia University student Amal Asmar and will cite the two police officers involved before the Police Ethics Committee for breaching several sections of the Quebec Code of Police Ethics.

In February 2010, Ms. Asmar, who is of Arab descent, was violently detained and arrested by two Montreal Police officers when she left the university's downtown Webster library late one night. As she sat down on a bench near the bus stop on Saint-Catherine and Atwater, a police car pulled up and two officers began aggressively questioning her and then demanding her ID.

When she asked whether she had done something wrong, the officers got out of the car and told her that the way she was using the bench was against the law. Surprised, she asked them what they meant, to which they replied that the bench is not for placing her school bag (while she had only this bag and another bag with her food containers, the officers wrote in their report that she had five bags spread all over the bench). When she inquired as to what law she might be breaking, the officers told her she was being arrested. They then seized her, grabbing her arms, dragged her to the cruiser, slammed her against the hood, and handcuffed her. Both officers twisted her arms up and away from her body, causing her to scream out in agony. The officers told her they would stop when she stopped yelling, as they proceeded to frisk her. She was then thrown into the police car, while the officers searched her belongings.

According to Ms. Asmar, when a police supervisor appeared on the scene, the officers told him that they had driven up to her and that she had immediately started screaming like a crazy person. The officers also indicated to the supervisor that she was the woman who had placed a bogus 9-1-1 call earlier, which led them to intervene in the first place.

Upon the Supervisor's departure, the officers removed her handcuffs and released her after flinging her bags to the ground, scattering their contents. When she asked for their badge numbers as well as their names to file a complaint, she was told that this information would be on the tickets. Without further explanation, the officers quickly drove off. Left to gather her strewn belongings from the ground, she discovered two tickets tucked into her agenda: one to the tune of $620 for misuse of municipal property and the other, $420, for having made a loud noise other than yelling.

Physical pain and psychological stress forced her to seek medical attention the following day and lose one week of school.

With CRARR's help, Ms. Asmar filed a complaint against the two officers with the Police Ethics Commissioner, alleging numerous violations: racial profiling; refusal to identify themselves when requested to do so; illegal detention; illegal arrest; illegal search; unlawful use of force; and abuse of authority by knowingly filing penal charges without justification. She also blamed the police supervisor for failure to collaborate in the administration of justice and to respect the authority of the law by not ensuring that her arrest and detention were legal.

Negative national media coverage of the incident and public reactions led the City of Montreal to drop the penal charges against her.

Last week, the Commissioner ruled in her favor on all grounds, except for those related to racial profiling, bringing charges without justification and the officers' refusal to identify themselves. The complaint against the police supervisor was also rejected since in the Commissioner's opinion, he could not be held “responsible for the false or erroneous information he received from [the officers].” The two police officers will be cited by the Commissioner before the Police Ethics Committee, which will hold hearings in the coming months.

“Of course, I am pleased with the Commissioner's decision, because what these officers did to me was not only illegal, abusive and discriminatory, but also very unprofessional and even dangerous to ordinary citizens.”

“This is not only for me, but for anyone who feels unfairly treated by the police. Stand up for your rights, and take action! I did it, so should everyone who's a victim of police abuse,” she added.

Ms. Asmar is still evaluating with CRARR the option of filing for a review the Commissioner's dismissal of the racial profiling element of her complaint and the charge related to the abusive fines of $1,000. CRARR has also filed a civil rights complaint against the officers and their employer, the City of Montreal, seeking damages and other remedies.

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