'It keeps happening': Black Montrealer alleges racial profiling after traffic stop

A Montreal man isn’t even done going through a police ethics and human rights complaint with Montreal police over alleged racial profiling and he’s already onto his second one.

At around 5:15 p.m. on April 9, Wayne King, a father of four, said he was followed by Montreal police (SPVM) while driving alone in a rented BMW X1 SUV just before returning it to the Enterprise in Cote-des-Neiges.

After filling up the car with gas, he noticed a police cruiser nearby had begun following him for about 1 kilometre before he was pulled over on De la Savane Street. He said a male and female officer came to his vehicle to ask for documentation and were doing a random “spot check.”

But he believes it was anything but random.

“They had already seen who I was. I was a black man, I have dreads and driving a BMW. So they felt the need to pull me over. And at this point, it was very frustrating because I was one minute away from the rental office,” King told a virtual news conference Friday.

“So, when he came up, I was just like, you know what, let's get this over with. So, he just said to me that he noticed that I had a rental plate, which, to me, that question didn't make any sense.

“You're allowed to rent a car. So, he said that, and I asked him if it was illegal. And then he was trying to make kind of small talk with me, which I was not interested in. I just wanted to go about my business.”

In an email to CTV News, Montreal police (SPVM) said it could not comment on specific cases.

"SPVM officers enforce the Highway Safety Code. The peace officer who finds an infraction has discretionary power to issue a statement of offence," the police service wrote. "Several factors will influence his decision. The nature of the offence and its duration are examples."

‘IT JUST KEEPS HAPPENING’

King said this isn’t the first time an incident like this has happened to him and he’s filing an official complaint with the police ethics commissioner and the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission.

In 2019, he filed similar complaints after he was stopped and questioned by police in July while walking with his wife, Anna, and nine-month-old baby in the Plateau. At the time, King said police approached him and asked for ID on St. Laurent Blvd. as he and his wife were talking with a friend after dropping their other children off at daycare.

King said the police officers said they were responding to a complaint made against the man, but later changed the story saying he matched the description of someone they were looking for. The interaction lasted 15-20 minutes.

“It just keeps happening. So, this new incident happened again. And I'm just frustrated by this, because it just seems to keep happening and happening. It's not random,” he said Friday.

“If it’s happening to me over and over, there must be other people it’s happening to also.”

Fo Niemi, executive director of The Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR), is assisting King with the 2019 complaints and this latest one.

Almost two years after filing a complaint about the 2019 incident, the ethics commissioner complaint is ongoing and a conciliation session is scheduled for next week, according to Niemi. As for the human rights commission, that process has been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite the lengthy complaints process, both King and Niemi said it’s worth people’s time to speak up about mistreatment.

“We ask people to be patient, to persevere,” he said.

“It may take two to three years, but in the end, if the case is strong, if the cause is good, then the result should be satisfactory for the people who get profiled, stopped very often.”

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