TORONTO, March 2, 2020 /CNW/ - Two officers from Peel Regional Police carried a six-year-old Black girl to the office of her school, laid her on her stomach and handcuffed her wrists and ankles in 2016. She remained cuffed for 28 minutes. A decision released by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario on February 24, 2020, found that the child's race was a factor in this ordeal, which was described as "a clear overreaction".
In concluding that race was a factor in the officers' use of force, Adjudicator Brenda Bowlby wrote: "While the officers had a legitimate duty to maintain the safety of the applicant, others and themselves in the circumstances where the applicant's behaviour were challenging and might have created a safety risk, this did not give them licence to treat the applicant in a way that they would not have treated a White six-year-old child in the same circumstances." The 54-page ruling also stated "…I have concluded that the officers' action in placing the applicant on her stomach, handcuffing her wrists behind her [back] and maintaining her in this position, with her ankles also handcuffed, for 28 minutes were disproportionate to what was necessary to provide adequate control and amounts to a clear overreaction in the circumstances."
Credibility was a major issue in this case. At the hearing the officers denied that the child was cuffed behind her back; however, there was conflicting evidence found in one of the officer's notes. Bowlby did not "accept [officer] NE's evidence that he erred in using the term "rear cuffs" in his notes because he was stressed or because this heart rate was still up. At least 26 minutes had elapsed from the point NE stopped holding the applicant..."
The case was heard over seven days at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. The decision is subject to a publication ban which prevents the media from publicizing the applicant's name, the names of her family members, her date of birth, the address and the town where the applicant resides, the litigation guardian's name and the applicant's photograph.
"I started this case to get justice for my daughter, to protect other children, and to shine light on the issue of over-policing which plagues the Black community," said the applicant's litigation guardian. She added, "Schools should be a safe place for Black children, not the site of racially motivated police aggression."
"Its hard to imagine another situation which would create a greater threat to a child's sense of safety, dignity and well-being," said Roger Love, the applicant's lawyer from the Human Rights Legal Support Centre. "This case shows how implicit racial bias, and untrained officers can be a recipe for disaster. Police Service Boards across the province must take concrete steps to ensure that Black children, like all other children, are treated with compassion and respect," continued Love.
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.
Read the decision here: JKB v. Peel (Police Services Board), 2020 HRTO 172
SOURCE Human Rights Legal Support Centre
For further information: Camille Bettonville, Human Rights Legal Support Centre, t: 416-597-4914, [email protected], www.hrlsc.on.ca