Quebec's police ethics committee rules against Montreal officer for 9th time after traffic stop goes awry

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A Montreal police officer violated Quebec's code of ethics after he neglected a woman's safety during a routine traffic stop, then contacted her after she filed a complaint against him, the province's police ethics committee ruled earlier this month.

This is the ninth time since 2002 that the committee has ruled against Const. Éric Locas, finding him in violation of a range of articles under the ethics code — a code that all officers in Quebec must follow.

According to the committee's Sept. 7 decision, Nacéra Ziane was pulled over by Locas just before 7 a.m. on Feb. 11, 2016, as she was driving down the Highway 40 service road. He told her she had turned her headlights off too early.

Ziane asked several times when she should have turned them off. While she accused Locas of being insulting in his replies by asking if she was deaf, Locas testified that, rather than insulting her, he listened and calmly repeated the necessary explanations each time she questioned the infraction.

Locas returned to his cruiser to write the ticket and, when he went to hand it to Ziane, she again questioned the traffic violation.

The exchange ended with Locas placing the ticket under Ziane's driver side windshield wiper instead of handing it to her directly. Locas said he placed the ticket under the wiper to avoid further argument. 

Locas left the scene before she could retrieve the ticket, forcing her to exit the vehicle during the busy morning rush hour.

Safety fears, voicemail message

A few months later, Ziane filed a complaint with the police ethics commission, saying she feared for her safety when she was forced to get out of her car in traffic to fetch the ticket.

Once he heard about the complaint, Locas contacted Ziane by telephone. He left a voicemail message on her home phone asking her to call back.

Ziane told the committee that she panicked after hearing the message because she did not know how he got her home phone number.

Pierre Drouin, the administrative judge who presided over the case, said the complaint became more serious when the constable initiated contact with Ziane.

The committee ruled that, given the officer's 24 years of experience, he "knew or ought to have known it was inappropriate" to contact the complainant.

The committee found Locas neglected Ziane's health and safety during the traffic stop. For attempting to contact her after she filed the complaint, he failed to "maintain the trust" in his position, the ruling states.

"Beyond the law and the code of ethics of police officers in Quebec, the behaviour of Const. Locas does not correspond to the level of professionalism of a police officer expected by the population," the decision states.

The ethics committee will reveal how he will be punished Nov. 7 — it can issue penalties that range from warnings and suspensions to demotions and dismissals. 

Violating Quebec's ethic code since 2002

Since 2002, Locas has been found in violation of the code of ethics in nine different rulings. 

Most rulings were related to failing to maintain trust, though he has also been penalized for abusing power and failing to collaborate with the administration of justice.

A decision rendered on Jan. 29 in a separate case stated Locas has "a certain difficulty" in his relations with the public. In that case, Locas was suspended for 12 days without pay for failing to maintain trust.

"Const. Locas does not seem to be fully aware of the importance of confidential information and his behaviour demonstrates that he does not apply the fundamental rules attached to it," the ruling said.

The Montreal police service is not commenting on the decision. When asked if Locas is still employed, a spokesperson replied in an email: "This information is personal and therefore must remain confidential."

With files from Radio-Canada