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Montreal, May 13, 2011--- A vague race-based suspect description would allow the police to stop and arrest a Black person in the Beauce region in Quebec, says the Police Ethics Committee in a decision rendered yesterday.

On February 17, 2009, at around 3:15 pm, Brunaud Moïse, a native Black medical equipment specialist, was driving his 2008 black Mazda from a hospital in Saint-Georges-de-Beauce to Quebec to attend a conference. A police car driving in the opposite direction on the freeway made a sudden U-turn to tail his car and ordered him to stop. With the officer pointing his gun at him, he was then asked to come out of his car and to lie on the ground with his hands behind his back. He was then handcuffed and searched. The officer took his license and went back to the police vehicle for an ID check. The officer then came back, uncuffed Mr. Moïse while he was still lying on the ground and apologized for stopping the wrong person. According to Mr. Moïse, the officer also said, “sorry, you’re not lucky, you don’t have the right skin color.” He was then allowed to go, before being handed a business card from the officer.

Around fifteen minutes later, he was intercepted again, this time by two other police officers. The business card of the SQ officer reassured these officers that he was not the person being sought by the police in the area, namely a Black male gang member who was considered dangerous and who was reported in police radio communications as being in the vicinity. There was no further physical description of the Black male suspect.

In its ruling, the Police Ethics Committee (a specialized tribunal) considered that given the information on the suspect, the SQ officer was justified in intercepting Mr. Moïse, due to his race and the geographic location, and in arresting him and in using force (the handcuffs) as well as the firearm.

With regard to the SQ officer’s statement to the effect that he was not lucky since he did not have the right skin color, the Committee dismissed this aspect of the complaint since the officer denied making it. Contrary to Mr. Moïse’s claim, the officer’s colleague (who arrived during the arrest) testified that he did not hear such a statement. The Committee added that since the SQ officer apologized for arresting the wrong man, it would be “difficult to believe” that this kind of disrespectful remark would have been made. It must have been the stress that distorted Mr. Moïse’s perceptions of some aspects of the incident, the Committee added.

Mr. Moïse reacted negatively to the ruling and it was the Committee’s observation that the officers had grounds to believe he was the suspect being sought since he is Black and that “there are few Blacks in Beauce, which makes it a particular physical characteristic.”

“This kind of reasoning makes every Black person suspect and vulnerable to racial profiling, when traveling in regions where there are few Black people,” Moïse said.

“We are concerned that by remaining silent on the need for a more detailed physical suspect description, the Committee legitimized the “Any Negro Would Do” practice, whereby on the basis of a vague race-based suspect description, the police can practically stop any person of that racial background in an area,” added CRARR Executive Director Fo Niemi.

The case may be appealed by the Police Ethics Commissioner, who brought the case before the Committee.


CDP Décision Moise 05-11.pdf59.21 KB