City of Gatineau, 2 police officers to pay $18K in racial profiling case

·2 min read

The City of Gatineau and two of its police officers have been ordered to pay $18,000 to a Black man who was deemed a victim of racial profiling by Quebec's Human Rights Tribunal.

The ruling is about an incident in December 2013, when two Gatineau police officers, Éric Bélanger and Jason Bruneau, stopped, searched and arrested a man they suspected was involved in a domestic violence complaint.

The officers were looking for a suspect identified by name and described as a Black man carrying a knife. He was also described as six-feet-one-inch in height, wearing a black coat and grey sweat pants, with long hair tied up.

But the man they ended up stopping did not fully match the description, according to the tribunal's decision. The victim said he was leaving a convenience store when he was stopped and searched twice, even after identifying himself to police.

With the exception of being Black, the victim was wearing different clothes: a grey hooded sweatshirt and faded blue jeans. His hair was also shaved.

The man told officers during his arrest that he believed it was an act of racial profiling, states the tribunal's decision.

Police ignored evidence: commissioner

In her ruling, the commissioner said the officers changed the description of the suspect and ignored clear signs, like the man's short hair, that would confirm they were searching and arresting the wrong person.

She also said that because officer Bruneau admits at one point that the man is not the suspect they were looking for, arresting him was unreasonable, as was a second search.

The commissioner also questioned why a complaint the victim filed with the police ethics commissioner days later was dismissed.

Recommendations

The commissioner ruled that the city and the two police officers pay a total of $18,000 to the victim. In addition to the fine, the commissioner also had recommendations.

She requested the city both train its police officers about the risks of racial profiling. She also said the city should create guidelines to identify and control racial profiling by police officers.

In response, the Service de police de la Ville de Gatineau (SPVG) said it wouldn't comment on the ruling because it may appeal the decision, but that there is zero tolerance for racial profiling from its members.

It said in recent years, SPVG has taken several steps to counter racial profiling, including training for its members, making services more accessible for ethnocultural groups and that it is talking with those groups to identify the challenges they face during interactions with police.