News & Events
Durham Police “tailored testimony” not credible: Racial profiling upheld
TORONTO, December 22, 2015 - Joseph Briggs went to buy a sandwich. What happened next was the subject of a five-day hearing before the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. In the end, Vice Chair Alison Renton concluded Briggs was the target of racial profiling by Durham Regional Police Services when they ran his license plate in the parking lot of a restaurant and then followed him one hour later.
“Objectively, I find that the racial profiling and discrimination … experienced, which included being racially profiled by having his license plate checked because he was black, and ‘trying to catch him’ is a serious violation of the [Human Rights] Code. The applicant went out at 1:30 a.m. to purchase a sandwich from a 24-hour restaurant, a relatively simple exercise,” read Vice Chair Renton’s 73-page decision.
Credibility was a major issue at the hearing.The Tribunal decision found that one of the officers "tailored his evidence after having the benefit of hearing his partner’s evidence, and learning that an issue before the Tribunal was whether the individual or the vehicle was suspicious.”
In concluding that race was a factor in deeming Briggs a “suspicious person,” the Tribunal wrote: “It is difficult to accept that the officers could see the brand of vehicle, the license plate, including its numbers and lettering, yet not see the personal characteristics of the applicant.”
“This happens to me all the time,” said Joseph Briggs. “I’m glad the Tribunal recognized police had to account for their actions on one particular night, but I'm still left with every other night. I'm always wondering when I'm going to be stopped next,” continued Briggs.
“Until there is a radical shift in police culture and training, this is going to keep happening to Black men in Ontario,” said Mindy Noble, Briggs’ lawyer from the Human Rights Legal Support Centre. “To that end, the provincial government needs to re-examine its proposed new regulation on police stops (including ‘carding’). This case shows the harm that can be done when an investigation is started without a legitimate law enforcement basis,” continued Noble.
The Human Rights Legal Support Centre provides free legal assistance to people in communities across Ontario who have experienced discrimination contrary to Ontario’s Human Rights Code.
For more information:
Jennifer Ramsay, Human Rights Legal Support Centre 416-597-4958