Two Montreal police officers who lied and said they were unaware of a man's medical condition before he died while in custody in 2017 have been suspended for 22 days without pay.
Officers Dominique Gagné and Mathieu Paré were given a two-day suspension for being reckless toward a detainee's safety and a 20-day suspension for giving the police watchdog information they knew was false. The two suspensions are to be served consecutively.
After being arrested during a traffic stop, David Tshiteya Kalubi, 23, told the officers he had sickle cell anemia and relied on medication to treat it. The following morning, Kalubi — who didn't have medication with him at the time of his arrest — was transferred to municipal court, where he died in detention.
The information about his condition was never documented on the inmate control sheet, and there would have been no way for officers at the municipal court to know about Kalubi's condition.
A Quebec coroner concluded that Kalubi did not die because he didn't have access to medication.
The Quebec police ethics committee ruled in January that the officers did not respect Kalubi's rights by being careless with regard to his health and safety during the remand procedure.
The committee also said the police officers did not perform their duties with integrity when they gave false statements to the independent watchdog, the Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes (BEI), looking into Kalubi's death.
Both officers said Kalubi had not mentioned any medical condition. However, in a video at the detention centre, Gagné can be heard asking Kalubi if he has any condition, and Kalubi can be heard explaining that he has sickle cell anemia and has to take hydroxyurea and folic acid.
The commission had recommended the committee give each officer a 20-day period of suspension for being reckless regarding Kalubi's health and safety and another, consecutive 60-day suspension for giving the BEI false statements. Counsel for the commissioner argued the ethical faults committed amount to criminal negligence and obstruction of justice, which the committee rejected.
Paré's counsel recommended a one-day suspension.
'Protecting personal interests'
The ethics committee stressed in the ruling that it was not leading a criminal investigation and that sanctions are imposed "not to punish" but "to protect the public, to deter the officer from repeating the misconduct and to set an example for other police officers who might be tempted to do similar things."
The committee also said the officers' actions were not "motivated by Kalubi's race," as his arrest was legal.
"Admittedly, the task performed by the police was significant and the type of misconduct committed in this case may have serious consequences for the health and safety of detainees," said the ethics committee in the ruling.
"However, in this case, the negligence and recklessness of the police are not at the origin of the unfortunate outcome that we know."
But, the committee said the officers committed serious ethical misconduct and compromised their integrity by lying to the BEI to "camouflage their failure" and "protect their personal interests."
"Rather than acknowledging their mistakes, the police chose the worst option available to them: lie to the investigators of the BEI," said the ruling.
"They tarnished the image of the police in the eyes of the general public and in the eyes of Mr. Kalubi's family, in particular, because they falsely alleged that he had not disclosed to them his medical condition."
Paré had been a police officer for 10 years at the time of the incident, and Gagné for 12 years. Neither had prior recorded infractions.