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Montreal, February 13, 2013 --- Two Montreal police officers who violently dragged out, arrested and then fined a Lasalle Black teacher who was in his friend's car while waiting for take-out food, broke the law but did not commit racial profiling, ruled the Police Ethics Committee in a decision rendered last week.

Around past midnight on April 9, 2010, Mr. Farid Charles was waiting as a passenger in his friend's car while his friend went to order food in a Caribbean take-out restaurant in a shopping center in Lasalle, a South West district of Montreal. A white police officer, Christopher Brault, suddenly opened the driver's side door and ask for Mr. Charles' driver's license and car papers. When Mr. Charles told Officer Brault that he had no right to open the door, the latter told him that he could do whatever he wanted. Officer Brault insisted that Mr. Charles show a piece of ID, without explaining him why; he only told Mr. Charles to sit still and be quiet, due to break-ins in the area.

When Mr. Charles asked again why the Officer wanted his ID, the later moved quickly to the passenger side, and grabbed his collar. As Mr. Charles told him to let go of his arm since the officer had no right to open the car door and grab his arm, the latter took Mr. Charles from the back of his neck to drag him out of the car, punched him and dragged him to the ground.

Mr. Charles was then handcuffed and searched by Officer Brault and his colleague Mathieu Boucher-Bacon. Eventually Mr. Charles was fined $144 for “wandering without being able to justify his presence.”

With CRARR's help, Mr. Charles launched a police ethics complaint against the two officers for racial profiling, excessive force, abuse of authority and bringing a charge without grounds. CRARR also filed a civil rights complaint against the officers and their employer, the City of Montreal, seeking $30,000 in damages. The fine was withdrawn by the City as the shopping center is private property and the police cannot apply a city by-law on it.

In its 43-page decision, the Committee concluded that Officer Brault and Officer Boucher-Bacon:

❏ Illegally intercepted Mr. Charles, when they intercepted him sitting in his friend's car, required him to provide ID and detained him for questioning, without reasonable grounds;

❏ Illegally arrested him, the moment they forcefully dragged him out of the car;

❏ Illegally used force on him and

❏ Illegally brought a charge against him, when they went through the booklet of the Lasalle borough's by-laws to find a charge to lay on him (that of wandering without being able to justify his presence), even though Mr. Charles did state that he was waiting for his friend who was buying food inside the restaurant and even though one officer testified that Mr. Charles was under no legal obligation to identify when intercepted in his friend's car.

However, the Committee rejected the Commission's racial profiling claim, ruling that the officers intercepted Mr. Charles before realizing his Blackness and that there was insufficient evidence that the treatments of Mr. Charles were linked to race. The Committee believed that Mr. Charles provoked Officer Brault who would react in the same way towards anyone found in a car parked at 12:30 am in front of the restaurant.

“Although I am very pleased that the Committee concluded that the officers broke the law in their conduct and violently violated my civil rights, I am both disappointed and disturbed by the Committee's failure to declare that I have been racially profiled,” said Mr. Charles.

“I still encourage every Black person in Montreal to come forward and file complaints against this kind of police action, because we have to send a strong message to authorities that mistreatments of minorities and civil rights violations must be firmly sanctioned,” he added.

“It is puzzling logic for the Committee to limit its analysis of racial profiling to the first interception and then blame both officers for all kinds of illegal conduct after the interception,” noted CRARR's Executive Director Fo Niemi.

“Furthermore, the Committee heard evidence that the Lasalle Caribbean Restaurant was known as a place frequented by street gangs; that its owner, who is Black, is a person of “interest”, and that on that night, there were Black customers inside the restaurant witnessing the incident, but the Committee accepted the officers' version that they didn't know that Mr. Charles was Black. Well, it quacks like a duck, walks like a duck and looks a duck, but the Committee says it is a turkey,” added Mr. Niemi.

The Committee will hold in the coming weeks a hearing to hear representations on the sanctions. The Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission has just completed its investigation report and is expected to issue a decision by Summer 2013.

To read the full decision (in French only):