"They shoot people like you [in the United States]."
Quebec's police ethics committee has ruled that a Laval police officer violated the ethics code when racially profiling a Black man in May 2017. The incident, which took place at a gas station, involved the officer pushing the man, wrongfully arresting him and deleting video footage of the event from the man's cellphone, according to the committee.
The officer also submitted a report he knew to be false or inaccurate, the committee's written decision says.
The police ethics committee made its decision on November 18 after seeing video surveillance taken at the gas station as well as reviewing the officer's reports and hearing testimony from both parties: Officer Michaël Boutin and Pradel Content, an anglophone Black man who identifies as disabled.
The decision document lays out Content's version of events, according to the police ethics commissioner.
The commissioner says Content was driving on Boulevard des Laurentides and stopped for a routine Timmies run when he spotted a patrol car U-turning in order to follow him. After parking at a gas station, the document says Content began filming since he's previously been harassed by police officers, but Officer Boutin told him he didn't have the right to film, slapped his phone out of his hand and pushed him, eventually arresting him.
Officer Boutin testified that they were following Content's vehicle after noticing an object poking out of the trunk. Boutin says they noticed Content violating the Highway Safety Code because he was using his cell phone while driving, despite Content saying he didn't start filming until he had parked. Boutin says he arrested Content for refusing to identify himself.
While Officer Boutin admitted to deleting the video (with consent), he says it was because Content brought the phone up to his face to intimidate him. However, the committee says it did not believe this because video footage showed Content holding the phone at chest level and not "gesticulating," as the officer described.
Citing another committee decision, Police Ethics Commissioner v. Ledoux from 2016, the committee added, "Nothing prohibits a citizen from filming or photographing a police intervention, this having become so easy with the new cameras available to the public. The police officer must now deal with this reality."
According to the decision document, Officer Boutin told Content that he should be happy to be in Quebec rather than the U.S. "because they shoot people like you there," to which Content replied that the police are shot back.
Content reportedly contested the ticket the police issued him for using his phone while driving and won. CTV News reported that, in addition to his complaint with the police ethics committee, Content also filed complaints with the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal and the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission.
While his case is still before the tribunal, CTV says the Human Rights Commission ruled in his favour and he was awarded $10,000 in damages from the police officers involved and the City of Laval.
All in all, the police ethics committee upheld six of the 12 complaints made against Officer Boutin.
"The Committee believes that Mr. Content's race played a definite role in Officer Boutin's decision to question him. Indeed, even if Officer Boutin may have had reasonable cause to stop Mr. Content, he had no reason to act as he did in slapping Mr. Content's hand and shoving him," the decision says.
Marie-Ève Bilodeau, secretary-general of the police ethics committee, told MTL Blog that the officer's penalties have yet to be decided. The decision on sanctions will be given at another hearing scheduled for December 16 at 9 a.m.
This article's cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.