If Majiza Philip's complaint about the circumstances of her 2014 arrest isn't re-examined by the police ethics commission, the integrity of the entire police ethics system will be put in jeopardy, says a prominent Montreal anti-racism group.
In November 2014, Philip was arrested outside the Olympia Theatre, after she tapped on the window of a police cruiser to get the attention of a friend being held there.
She said one of the four officers grabbed her and forcibly restrained her, breaking her arm.
Philip was charged with assaulting two police officers and obstruction of justice. She was acquitted last month in municipal court.
In her ruling, municipal court judge Katia Mouscardy found multiple "intrinsic contradictions" in the police officers' accounts of what happened the evening Philip was arrested.
"Ms. Philip's version of the events was deemed to be very credible and believable by the court," Fo Niemi, executive director of Montreal's Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR), said at a news conference Wednesday.
"Her same version of the facts was deemed to be not credible" by the police ethics commission, he said.
The commission threw out Philip's complaint, filed weeks after her arrest, in January 2015.
In reviewing Philip's case, commissioner Marc-André Dowd did not interview the officers involved, because section 192 of the Police Act allows officers not to co-operate with the commission.
The clause "can in practice deprive a citizen complainant of his or her right to procedural fairness and to be effectively protected from police misconduct," Niemi said.
Hoping for justice
As well as seeking a review of her file, Philip wants to see the Police Act changed, compelling police officers to co-operate with the ethics commission in the event of a complaint.
"If I don't follow this through, I'm letting down countless other people who have also been through this," Philip said.
"I know that I have the grounds and I have the right, as a human being, to be treated fairly."
Philip's mother, Suzanne Bruneau, said her daughter's acquittal renewed her hope that Philip could still find justice.
"I don't want to ever see a mother, family, daughter, son, child, go through the ordeal that we've been through for the last three years," Bruneau said.
Philip bears physical evidence of that ordeal: a long surgical scar remains visible on the back of her arm. When her arm was broken, doctors had to insert six pins and a steel plate to help it heal.
If the police ethics commission doesn't re-open the file, Niemi said he wants the minister of public safety to appoint independent counsel to evaluate it.