Police ethics commissioner rules against disabled Black man who alleged racial profiling in traffic stop
MONTREAL -- A disabled Black man in Laval, Quebec is challenging the Deputy Police Ethics Commissioner's ruling after she rejected his racial profiling complaint for a police stop conducted because the car he was driving was registered under a woman's name.
Pradel Content says he has often been stopped by Laval police and the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR) said he has two racial-profiling cases (from 2017 and 2018) before the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal filed against four Laval police officers.
A third complaint is from a traffic stop on March 11, 2020 in front of his home, CRARR said.
"He was driving home from the Super C in a Toyota Corolla registered to his mother’s name when a police car driving past him in the opposite direction, made a sudden U-turn to come up behind him as Content was parking his car in front of his building," reads a CRARR news release. "Accustomed to being profiled, Content pulled out his cell phone to record the exchange. The officer checked his IDs and give him a $489 ticket for using a cell phone while driving a vehicle, although Content had already parked his car."
Content contacted CRARR to file a complaint, and this month received Deputy Police Ethics Commissioner Helene Tremblay's decision dismissing his complaint.
"Police officers have some discretion in deciding whether or not to issue a traffic ticket," Tremblay wrote in her deicision. "In the absence of elements allowing us to establish that this discretion was exercised in an arbitrary discriminatory manner or in bad faith, we cannot hold that this is the case."
Tremblay added that police intercepted the car for reasons related to road safety "in order to check the mechanical state of the vehicle."
"The vehicle dates from 1999 and showed signs of deterioration," she wrote. "In this context, the complainant's subjective perception alone is not sufficient to support his allegations."
CRARR and Content will challenge the decision.
The police report notes that officers made a U-turn on Bousquet St. in Laval after checking the computer and found the registration belonged to an elderly woman and that officers "saw a man at the wheel."
They pulled him over on Biencourt St.
"This claim is preposterous since, driving in the opposite direction, they could not see the car’s license plate before making the U-turn," CRARR's news release reads. "The only thing they saw was a Black man at the wheel."
CRARR noted that a 2019 ruling in Montreal Municipal Court found that it was not legitamite to intercept a car on the basis of a driver's gender after a Black woman was stopped in part "because her car was registered to a man's name," CRARR wrote citing a ruling by Judge Randall Richmond.
"She was, in the judge’s opinion, a victim of racial and gender profiling," CRARR wrote.
“I am very concerned that the deputy police ethics commissioner did not see gender discrimination in racial profiling when it’s clearly identified in a court ruling that she must be cognizant of," said Content in the CRARR release.
CRARR executive director Fo Niemi hopes the Richmond decision will sway Tremblay to reconsider her decision.
“Much too often, the police uses the fallacious argument of the car being registered to a woman as a pretext to stop Black male drivers,” said Niemi. “Authorities need to heed Judge Richmond’s message that gender profiling and racial profiling go together and that they are both illegal."