British Columbia

Prince Rupert man says he was racially profiled by RCMP in traffic stop

A Prince Rupert, B.C., man says he has yet to receive any explanation from the RCMP after officers stopped his car in what he believes was an example of racial profiling.

Hakeem Lawal says 'there was simply no other reason to pull to me over' other than the colour of his skin

Hakeem Lawal has filed a complaint with the RCMP over the Aug. 1 traffic stop. (Submitted by Hakeem Lawal)

A Prince Rupert, B.C., man says he has yet to receive any explanation from the RCMP after officers stopped his car in what he believes was an example of racial profiling.

"There was simply no other reason to pull to me over," Hakeem Lawal said, describing the traffic stop early Aug. 1.

According to Lawal, 43, the officers who stopped him said he had slowed down suddenly as he drove past a police cruiser. After he asked whether he had been stopped because of his skin colour, the officers left without even giving him a warning, he said.

On Saturday, a protest calling for police accountability organized by Lawal outside the Prince Rupert RCMP detachment drew about a dozen people.

Lawal told CBC's Daybreak North host Matt Allen that he had just finished a late shift at the container terminal on Aug. 1 and was driving home around 2 a.m. when he spotted a parked RCMP cruiser.

"As I passed the car — it was a bit of a narrow street and there was a car parked on the other side — I slowed down and, you know, made sure I passed the car safely," he said.

"I was already going under the speed limit, everything was fine."

So, Lawal was confused when the patrol car began flashing its lights and followed him into his driveway just a block away.

After providing his licence and registration, Lawal asked one of the two attending officers why he was pulled over. He says the officer told him it was because he'd "slammed on his brakes" while passing.

"That confused me. I was obeying the law. I hadn't done anything wrong ... slowing down while passing a [parked] vehicle isn't against the law. It's actually just good safety sense," he said.

He says when he questioned the officers whether the stop was about race, they left without issuing a ticket or warning. He also says one officer refused to provide their name or badge number. 

The encounter was more than just unnecessary or confusing, said Lawal, who has lived in Prince Rupert for most of his life. 

"I felt really triggered and embarrassed to have a police car with flashing lights in my own driveway," he said, adding that it's not the first time he's been stopped by police for no reason.

"I've had experiences with the police in the past, puling me over and stopping me for no reason. And I really felt upset this was happening to me." 

Lewal has filed a report with the RCMP Civilian Review and Complaints Commission.

The RCMP confirmed a formal investigation is underway with the complaints commission but refused to give further comment.

Lawal says that in itself is part of the problem.

"There's not really much recourse that we, the public, have. We can go to the RCMP and file a complaint but then it basically comes down to them investigating themselves, and how can you really trust that? ... I don't understand that part," he said.

With files from CBC's Daybreak North


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