Driving while Black? Lawyer files complaint after he was handcuffed during traffic stop in Montreal
A Laval lawyer is filing a complaint with the police ethics commissioner after he says he was handcuffed in front of his teenaged daughter during what should have been a routine traffic stop in Montreal.
“I’ve been reliving it in my head constantly, even at night in bed.” said Kwadwo Yeboah. “I’m like, ‘Anything could have happened.’”
On Thursday night at 6:30 p.m., Yeboah picked up his daughter in Montreal and was driving her home in his wife’s Mercedes.
They were stopping in Chinatown to pick up dinner.
Yeboah said his daughter was on the phone when a Montreal police officer pulled him over.
“The first question that he asks me [was], ‘Where are you going?’ I said.
Yeboah said he told police he was heading to a nearby restaurant with his daughter.
“‘Whose car is this?’ [he said]. I’m like, ‘It’s my wife’s car,’” recalled Yeboah.
The officer asked for the lawyer’s papers. Yeboah handed over his driver’s licence, but had trouble finding his registration.
The officer went back to his patrol car, at which point Yeboah found the document.
“So I opened my door, turned around, I did one step, [and] he grabbed my right hand, twisted it, my phone fell and he said, ‘You’re under arrest for giving me a fake driver’s licence,’” he said.
At that point, Yeboah said his daughter got out of their car and asked what was going on.
“I told her, ‘Kenya, record record record!’ And they’re telling her, ‘No, no, go back into the car and sit down. If not, you will get into trouble,’” Yeboah said. “She’s standing not knowing what to do, listen to me or the cops. She goes back to the car, I see her crying on the phone with her mom.”
Yeboah was handcuffed and placed into the police car for 15 minutes. He said officers started going through his phone.
“I tell them, ‘Hey, you cannot search my stuff like that, it’s covered by solicitor-client privilege, I’m a lawyer, you know, you can’t do that,’ and they started to laugh,” he recalled.
He said police then went through his wallet and saw cards that identified him as a member of the bar association.
“They came back to the car and he tells me, ‘Listen, if you’re not too mad, we’re going to remove the handcuffs’ and I asked them, ‘Don’t you feel I have the right to be mad?’” he said.
Yeboah said police proceeded to give him a $490 ticket for driving while having a cell phone. I was thinking, ‘All this for that? What happened with the fake driver’s licence? All of a sudden it’s gone,’” he said.
Yeboah said he believes it was a case of driving while Black.
“If I was a white person, this wouldn’t have happened,” he said. “Even if you suspected I was using my phone, how do we go from there to being handcuffed for 15 minutes? I have colleagues at work who tell me they were driving with a licence with a suspended license, and the cop came to their car and was greeted with “hey, how are you?’
Montreal police say they don’t comment on individual cases, but if anyone feels they were mistreated by police, they can file a complaint.
Yeboah said that’s what he intends to do.