Two Montreal police officers suspended for 13 days after 2017 illegal arrest of Black man

Kenrick McRae says police are always pulling him over for random street checks.

A police ethics report into the 2017 arrest of a Black man has led to the suspension of two Montreal police officers – but the man at the centre of the report says it doesn't go far enough.

The Montreal police ethics committee has suspended without pay Christian Benoit and Philippe Bernard-Thomassin for 13 days each, saying both officers committed multiple violations and performed an illegal arrest.

The incident took place in March 2017, when Kenrick McRae was in his car on Westminster Ave. in Montreal West at 10:30 p.m. He said police spotted him and pulled him over.

It one of many times, he said, he was stopped for 'driving while Black.'

Officers asked for his papers and then informed him the lights over his licence plate weren't working.

McRae got out of the car with his camcorder and saw three of the lights were lit. He began to film to prove they were working.

He asked the officer why he was stopped, accused the officers of harassing him and informed him that he would be filing an official complaint with the commissioner's office.

The officers claimed McRae started yelling about racial profiling and lunged at them, but McRae argued they "lunged at me." The altercation ended with McRae in handcuffs.

McRae said the officers went through the footage on his camera and deleted files of the incident, as well as those of prior run-ins with police that he had filmed. The officers have denied it.

According to the report, Benoit told McRae he wouldn't be charged and released him saying, "he is lucky because the next officers that stop him could be more brutal and forceful," the report noted, adding that the officers illegally arrested McRae.

"The committee has doubts about the officers' version of events," the report read.

Last December, Benoit and Bernard-Thomassin were found guilty of misconduct and abuse of power. The report concluded the officers violated several articles in the police ethics code, including:

  • Article 5 (preserving trust)
  • Article 6 (avoiding abuse of power)
  • Article 7 (respecting the law)
  • Article 8 (exercising functions with morality)

"It's a good day that they were sanctioned," said McRae, "but it doesn't send a strong and serious message in relation to ending racial profiling and racism that's going on. Ten years ago, officers found guilty were given the same thing. There's no change."

The decision, though, is a reminder that citizens have the right to record a police intervention and officers are not allowed to seize the equipment or recordings, said Alain Babineau, a former RCMP officer who serves as an advisor to the Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations.

Ontario and British Columbia have updated their street check rules for officers to include how they interact with drivers. Not so for Quebec, he said.

"The need to absolutely have vehicle stops as part of any credible policy on vehicle (stops) or stops of all kinds," he said.

Montreal police declined to comment on the matter.

McRae is still seeking compensation through a Human Rights' Commission complaint; that case is expected to be heard in the fall. 

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