Montreal judge accuses two SPVM officers of racial and gender profiling

Sep 16 2019, 7:51 am

Randall Richmond, a municipal court judge, has accused two SPVM officers of racial and gender profiling against a woman who was pulled over in 2017.

All charges against the woman have been dropped, according to judgement records, ruled on Thursday, September 12.

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In November 2017, Vanessa Anna Baptiste was driving her father’s car to Notre Dame Island with a male friend, and was charged with refusing to hand over documents and screaming at police officers.

According to the records, as Baptiste drove along Papineau Avenue, two officers in an SPVM squad car pulled a U-Turn towards the Pont Jacques Cartier and turned on their sirens, pulling the woman over halfway across the bridge.

As the officers approached her car, Baptiste had her license, registration, and insurance in hand and told the policemen she did nothing wrong and accused them of pulling her over because of the colour of her skin.

The officers removed her from her vehicle, handcuffed her, and charged her with two fines: one for refusing to hand over required documents and one for “screaming at police.”

Both officers claimed they had pulled Baptiste over because they saw a woman driving a vehicle registered to a man and they later said that one of her brake lights was out.

Judge Richmond noted that no fines of broken brake light were originally issued, details that were only officially added to the plea later on.

The SPVM officers said they initially could not see the colour of the driver’s skin because it was too dark outside but could see a woman driving and a man in the passenger seat.

“I am not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the police were acting under the Highway Safety Code or other legislation,” says Richmond in the judgement. “The police intervention had all the appearance of a fishing expedition and arbitrary detention motivated by racial or sexual profiling or both.”

Richmond also rejected the officers’ choice of words who described Baptiste as “hysterical,” “cried for bloody murder” and “screamed her head off.”

“These pictorial expressions are hyperbole. It is a deliberate exaggeration for the purpose of producing an effect,” said Richmond. “It may be appropriate in literature and conversation, but it should be avoided in official documents, especially those that can be filed as evidence in a court of law.”

Richmond added that Baptiste’s cries didn’t seem disruptive but “legitimate,” given the circumstances.

The judge concluded that protesting an arrest believed to illegitimate is a right protected by both Quebec and Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and that women driving vehicles owned by men does not hold grounds to getting pulled over.