Officers suspended for 13 days without pay
Rosie Awori (LJI)
“That’s not justice, but I am not someone who gives up easily, but that’s not right,” Kenrick McRae’s voice is colored with disappointment as he talks to the CONTACT about the penalties issued to the two officers who were found guilty of arresting him illegally.
In 2017, McRae was stopped by the police while parked in his white Mercedes Benz as he waited for his friend to finish an errand outside the bank in western NDG.
He says the police car pulled up behind him and officers begun flooding him with questions then told him that the lights on his license plate were not working.
That being the umpteenth time that the Montrealer, originally from Guyana was stopped by the cops he had a camera in his car, was ready to record this interaction.
In the process of recording the officers seized the camera and deleted the contents and when he questioned them, they violently handcuffed and arrested him for “disturbing the peace.”
He reported the event and an inquiry was opened to investigate the officers actions.
He called 911 immediately and were it not for some of the proof his friend had and his sharp memory his allegations would have been thrown out.
“If it was me, do you know how many years I would be in jail for those things? It wouldn’t be a couple of days.”
Last month a police ethics committee found that his arrest in 2017 was illegal and suspended the arresting officers, Christian Benoit and Philippe Bernard-Thomassin for 13 days each without pay.
McRae who was a former police superintendent in Guyana understands the law and considers himself a law-abiding citizen but he feels racism is the reason he was stopped and harassed by police in Montreal.
His allegations correspond to the findings of an independent study in fall 2019 showing that Blacks, Indigenous and other people of color were far more likely to be stopped by the police in Montreal.
In response, the Montreal police department unveiled a set of guidelines, which the chief says will be based on “observable facts and not discriminatory motives.” Under the new directives police cannot use these so-called random stops under the pretext of enforcing a law when their real goal is to identify the person and obtain information. And individuals should not be targeted because of their real or perceived ethno-cultural identity, religion, gender, identity, sexual orientation or socio-economic status.
McRae feels like the policy will be hard to enforce if the officers will end up with “vacation days” as he called them.
“If you listen to the mayor, and to the commissioner, they are still in doubt and in denial that these things are not happening, yet their own people did reports to confirm that, “yes, these things are happening.” They only come out to report because it looks bad and they go on all the TV stations to say, “We are going to do this and that and eventually finding ourselves back at square one. Look at the report that came out last week, all the politicians called me, put everything on the news and we didn’t even hear a word from the mayor, the commissioner and from the people that claimed to be representing us. This does not make any sense.”
The new regulations have come into effect this fall, and according to the rules; respecting the policy will be mandatory for all on-the-ground police officers. It will require officers to record information gathered — including the perceived or presumed ethno-cultural identity of the person who was stopped.
Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante applauded the policy and termed it as, “a first in Quebec.”
McRae thinks otherwise, but he lives to fight another day.