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Montreal, January 24, 2018 — There should be major reforms to the police ethics system, and to the way the Police Ethics Commissioner handles complaints from citizens about police misconduct, in order to avoid bringing the administration of justice into disrepute.

This is the message of Majiza Philip, a young Black woman who was violently arrested and charged by Montreal Police officers back in 2014, and who last month was acquitted in Municipal Court of charges of obstruction and assault against a police officer.

On November 21, 2014, Philip, then 26, went with her roommate to a Machine Gun Kelly concert at the Olympia Theater in the Gay Village. Her attempt to communicate with her roommate, who was detained by the police for being drunk led her to being violent arrested and a broken humerus that required her to wear a cast for 5 weeks and a metal plate with 6 screws. Due to her injury, she lost her full-time job as a cook and could not teach dance in the foreseeable future (Philip is the granddaughter of tap queen Ethel Bruneau).

Three months later, with CRARR's help, Philip filed a police ethics complaint against the officer who used excessive force on her. Police Ethics Commissioner Paul Larochelle eventually identified and cited 3 officers in his investigation. In July 2015, Philip learned from the Commissioner's office that four criminal charges were filed against her. She had never been informed of these charges.

In May 2016, after completing his investigation, Commissioner Larochelle dismissed her case by concluding that the three cited officers did not commit any misconduct. In fact, in some parts of the decision, the Commissioner indirectly blamed Philip for her conduct during the incident, even citing a medical “possibility” that her “weakened bones” may have played a part in her injury. During the investigation, the Commissioner did not interview the 3 respondent officers, due to a provision in the Police Act (s. 192) that allows police officers named in a complaint not to cooperate with the Commissioner's investigation.

In December 2017, after three hearings, the Court dismissed the charges and acquitted Philip, due to major contradictions in the three officers' testimonies and the prosecution's inability to prove beyond a reasonable doubt her commission of certain offenses.

The Court's findings raise significant questions about Commissioner Larochelle's investigation and conclusion, notably the fact that:

❏ The Commissioner did not interview the three key officers, and had to rely on their written reports for his investigation. These officers' contradictory testimonies in Court now raise critical questions about the validity of these reports. Should the Commissioner’s decision therefore be subject to review?

❏ The Court specifically questioned the officers' version of force used against Philip, and the fact that one officer did not fill out the mandatory report on the use of force. Did the Commissioner examine this issue?

“I believe that the Commissioner just wanted to rush to close the file, because he could have waited for the criminal trial and obtain the officers' testimonies in court,” said Philip. “Now that the officers' glaring contradictions are confirmed by the court, the Commissioner owes me the re-opening of my case,” she added.

According to CRARR's Executive Director Fo Niemi, the Commissioner knew in 2016 that there would be a criminal trial, where the officers and Philip would testify and be cross-examined. Despite this knowledge, he still proceeded to investigate without interviewing the 3 officers involved and reached the decision to close the case before the officers testified in court.

Philip and CRARR call on Commissioner Marc-André Dowd to re-open the case, or launch a new investigation in light of the officers' court testimony in November 2017. If this is not possible, the Minister of Public Security must appoint an independent counsel to review how Philip's complaint has been handled.

CRARR also demands that the archaic s. 192 of the Police Act be abolished in order to avoid exempting police officers from their duty to cooperate with the Commissioner's investigation.

“This clause, under the guise of protecting a police officer's right to silence or right against self-incrimination, can in practice deprive a citizen complainant of his or her right to procedural fairness and to be effectively protected from police misconduct,” noted Niemi.

“Mine is a case of a woman, and a Black woman, who has been the object of unjustified arrest, excessive force and four criminal charges, and whose version is deemed very credible in a court of law but not credible by an administrative agency. How do you explain that?” Philip asked.