Edmonton teen's complaint of excessive force, racial profiling under investigation
Peace officers issued $250 loitering ticket but 15-year-old boy says he was waiting for the bus.
Edmonton police and city officials are investigating after a 15-year-old boy filed complaints against two transit officers for alleged excessive force and racial profiling.
The African-Canadian teen, who CBC is not identifying due to safety and employment concerns, told CBC News he was pushed down, handcuffed and injured in an incident on Jan. 19 at the Belvedere LRT station.
In his written complaint to the city, the youth said he was falsely accused of loitering while waiting for Bus #154 to go home from school on a Friday afternoon. He was with five other black people.
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The teen said when he tried to leave, the peace officer told him he was being detained for loitering before the officer grabbed and handcuffed him.
On Wednesday, Edmonton police confirmed they have opened an investigation into the incident.
A city spokesperson said officials are also looking into the youth's complaint under the Peace Officer Act.
"The professional standards unit will discuss the concern with both parties, research the incident, and advise them of the findings in writing," wrote Tarra Kongsrude in a brief statement.
Due to privacy regulations, the findings are only shared with the complainant, she added.
'I felt like I wanted to cry'
In an interview Wednesday, the boy told CBC he and his friends weren't causing trouble as he waited for his bus inside the station on the glass walkway close to the payment area for trains.
He said they were waiting there because it was cold out and the bus depot was under construction.
He had a clear view of the bus stop which was about 20 metres away, he said.
The youth estimated he had been waiting 10 to 15 minutes. During that time he ran into three relatives who were standing a few metres away while they chatted.
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While he was checking his phone he said the first transit officer told him he would have to leave because he was loitering.
The youth said he explained he was waiting for the bus but the officer said he had missed two LRT trains.
The boy provided CBC News with short videos recorded by witnesses showing parts of the incident.
Two officers can be seen struggling with the teen. They have his hands behind his back. He appears to hit his head before he ends up on the ground and his glasses land on the concrete.
"One had his knees on my back, one had his knees on my leg," the boy told CBC News, pausing at one point overcome with emotion as he recalled being handcuffed.
"They were putting full-on pressure with their weight against my leg and my back, and it really hurt me.
"And then I was swearing at them because I was really angry and I was hurt. I felt like I wanted to cry. But I took it as a man, because I didn't want to look like a wimp just crying there on the ground."
He said the officers left him on the ground for a few minutes, telling him he needed to "cool off."
$250 ticket issued
Afterwards he said he gave them his name, date of birth and ID and they gave him a $250 ticket for loitering.
"I felt shocked," said the teen. "I felt so much hate against that peace officer. Like why did he do it?"
"I think he's approaching us just because of our skin colour and the way we look."
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The father of the teen said his son is a nice boy and that he suspects he was targeted because he's black.
He said he has heard similar complaints from other youth as a leader in the city's South Sudanese community.
Batul Gulamhusein with Progress Alberta, who is advocating on behalf of the youth, called for a swift investigation by the city and disciplinary measures for the officers involved.
"It's fairly obvious that this is a case of racial profiling," said Gulamhusein. "The fact that black youth in our city continually get targeted by transit officers and police officers is a problem."
In June, a CBC investigation revealed city police disproportionately card black and Indigenous people.
Since then, police, the province and the Edmonton police commission have all undertaken reviews with an update expected by the police commission Friday.
Gulamhusein said ensuring "racial sensitivity training" is in place is key to making sure black and Indigenous people aren't targeted disproportionately.
"It's high time that we start to decide that racial profiling is not welcome in our city and it can't happen anymore," she said.
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The boy said the officers didn't contact his parents or check to see if he needed medical attention.
He has used transit since Grade 7 but now asks his mom to drive him places, he said. When she can't, he avoids the Belvedere LRT station.
The teen said he thinks about the incident every day and worries his siblings or mom, who also use transit, might be targeted by peace officers.
He said he and his friends and relatives are good people but they are often stopped by officers to check for valid bus passes.
On another occasion he recalled being stopped and questioned for an hour as officers reviewed video of a prior incident and looked at their faces "like we are suspects."
With files from Sam Martin