Montreal-area man alleges race-based detention by police

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With the support of the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR), a Laval, Quebec resident is filing a complaint to the police ethics board asserting that police followed him, knocked his phone from his hand and deleted a video he had taken of their approach. Surveillance video appears to confirm the account.

One of the officers responsible for the alleged arrest reports that police started following 39-year-old Pradel Content after spotting a Halloween-style fake hand sticking out from his car’s trunk. Constable Michael Boutin then stepped out of his cruiser at a gas station where Content had stopped, and knocked a phone from his hand. A copy of the police report confirms that the officers proceeded to delete Content’s footage.

Recent rulings such as Commissaire à la déontologie policière v. Ledoux and Larochelle v. Sarno have stated that police officers are not legally permitted to delete footage from the phones or cameras of citizens except in exceptional circumstances. In Ledoux, the commission noted that “Rien  n’interdit  à  un  citoyen  de  filmer  ou  de  photographier  l’intervention  d’un  policier,  ceci  étant  devenu  si  facile  avec  les  nouveaux  appareils  à  la  disposition  du  public. Le policier doit désormais composer avec cette réalité”. The commission there stated that this right of the citizen only ends “au moment où ce geste ou la situation qu’il crée perturbe son travail ou constitue une forme d’intimidation,” which is a condition that does not obviously obtain in this case.

In Larochelle v. Sarno, the commission ruled “the officers had no valid reason to detain the victim or use force […] As to the demand to delete the pictures, the officers had no legal basis to ask for the deletion of the pictures.”

Content’s case is not the only questionable race-based detention incident involving Montreal-area police in recent months. In February, a 54-year-old illustrator named Errol Burke was allegedly thrown to the ground and dragged outside a dépanneur because local police judged that he had a similar appearance to a suspect in a neighbourhood stabbing.

CRARR, a civil rights organization that strives to promote racial equality and combat racism in Canada, has taken on both cases. The tendency to detain any Black person on a basis of a vague race-based description “is one of the most dangerous police practices that occur more than many authorities are willing to admit,” CRARR’s Executive Director Fo Niemi wrote on the organization’s website.

News outlets like CTV have contacted Laval Police for a response to the allegations put forward by CRARR and Content, without any response.

This blog post was written by a CCLA summer law student. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect the view of the CCLA.

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