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Longueuil resident fed up with "ludicrous" treatment by police

Joel DeBellefeuille has just filed his third complaint in six years with Quebec's Police Ethics Commission, accusing the cops of racial profiling.
Joel DeBellefeuille has just filed his third complaint in six years with Quebec’s Police Ethics Commission after he was stopped by Longueuil police Friday for what he considers another case of being penalized for simply “driving while black”.
DeBellefeuille, a 40-year-old financial consultant with a fondness for BMWs, has already had a bogus charge against him thrown out of court and the officers involved disciplined by the commission for using racial profiling to target him in 2009. In that case, the judge ruled the officers violated the Charter of Rights and Freedoms when they pulled DeBellefeuille over simply because they doubted a black man would own the new BMW he was driving.
In the police report, the officers wrote that they checked the car’s licence plate and did not believe a black man would have such a Québécois name. When he refused to provide identification, DeBellefeuille was charged with obstructing justice. The charges were dropped and the officers involved were eventually reprimanded and suspended for five days without pay.
Then, on the morning of March 22, 2012, DeBellefeuille was driving his son to daycare when a police car tailed him for 11 blocks. After he dropped his son off at the daycare, the police officers stopped him and questioned him, in what they said was a random check on the vehicle. DeBellefeuille has filed a complaint with the Police Ethics Commission and the two officers were cited for racial profiling on Jan. 8, 2014, and the case is expected to be heard sometime next year.
DeBellefeuille said the incident was humiliating.
“It was uncomfortable and infuriating and embarrassing. There were eight kids plus my son out on the lawn in front of the daycare and the daycare lady, all watching daddy being questioned by police. For nothing. It’s ludicrous.”
On Friday evening, DeBellefeuille was pulling into a parking lot in St. Hubert, and noticed a police car pulling out. The officers in the car looked at him and then reversed back into the parking lot and approached him when he got out of his car.
They told him they were issuing him a ticket for not wearing his seat belt.
“I never, ever drive without wearing my seat belt,” DeBellefeuille said. “I told them they were doing exactly what those other officers did to me before. I said, ‘You are profiling me because of the colour of my skin and the nice car I drive.’ ”
He said he didn’t actually read the ticket he was issued until several hours later. That’s when he noticed he had in fact been charged with having a minor in the car who was not properly belted in. He says he was alone in his car when he was stopped.
DeBellefeuille went to the courthouse on Monday to contest the ticket and learned that he had also been issued a second ticket for driving without a seatbelt. Each offence is punishable by a $126 fine and three demerit points.
The Gazette attempted, but failed, to reach a Longueuil police spokesperson for comment Wednesday.
The Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR) is helping DeBellefeuille with his complaints to the Police Ethics Commission. CRARR executive director Fo Niemi said he is concerned local police forces regularly stop black men simply to get their information into the police database or to track their movements, especially in high crime areas.
“A disproportionate number of black or brown men tell us they are being stopped and charged with minor offenses. And if they don’t respond exactly correctly, they get arrested and charged with obstruction,” Niemi said.
A similar practice in Toronto, called “carding” has been heavily criticized by human rights groups. Ontario’s minister of community safety and correctional services announced Wednesday that police officers in that province will no longer be able to arbitrarily stop people for questioning based on their appearance.
DeBellefeuille is calling for an inquiry into the Longueuil Police’s track record on racial profiling.
He estimates he has been stopped by police about ten times and in eight of those cases, he believes it was simply because he was black. He said he is spending the time and money to fight these tickets because he wants to change police practices for others who are more vulnerable than himself.
“I have a son who is five years old and biracial, so for sure he will have the same issues (if things don’t change) and there are other people who are being targeted who maybe don’t have a voice, so at least I want to use my voice and say this is enough,” he said.
He said black men experience stress whenever they encounter a police patrol car while driving; one wrong move, and they know they will be pulled over.
“Everywhere I drive, I drive while black. What does that mean? It means you have to make sure you dot all your Is and cross all your Ts because all eyes are on you all the time. It is a very vulnerable feeling.”

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