Freddie James's racial profiling complaint is part of larger issue inside Montreal police force

Montreal singer Freddie James went public this week with a complaint of police racial profiling — an issue Montreal's police chief Marc Parent admits is a problem in his force.

Montreal's police chief Marc Parent admits racial profiling is a problem in Montreal

Montreal police chief Marc Parent admits the SPVM has a problem with racial profiling. 2:16

The Montreal police force does have a problem with racial profiling, admits Chief Marc Parent. However, he says, the department is working continuously to improve relationships with the city’s cultural communities.

"We do have a racial profiling problem… It’s not the majority, but we have to work on that every day," Parent said on Daybreak Friday morning.

His comments capped off a week in which Montreal singer Freddie James went public with his own racial profiling complaint.

James told CBC News that he was tailed and then pulled over by a police officer for no apparent reason while driving his BMW in the West Island a few weeks ago.

I said, "Guys, why are you being so aggressive? I'm not resisting."- Freddie James

He said the officer asked first whether it was his car, then demanded his car registration papers and shrugged off James’s requests for a reason as to why he’d been pulled over. James said he was then pulled violently from his car and treated aggressively.

"They pulled me by the back of my neck and threw my hands behind my back, and I said, ‘Guys, why are you being so aggressive? I'm not resisting,’" James said.

He was eventually let go — with a $162 ticket for failure to provide identification to police, even though he said he offered to show the officer his ID.

Sue Smith speaks Montreal performer Freddie James about the complaint he's filing against three Montreal police officers who he says acted aggressively towards him because he is black. 8:37

Have Montrealers lost faith in the police?

Since coming forward with his complaint, James said he’s received at least 20 emails from fellow Montrealers telling him they too had been racially profiled by police here.

Montreal police chief Marc Parent says only about one-tenth of officers are members of a visible minority. (CBC)

"People have lost faith in the police, they have lost faith in the police system, and that’s why people don’t come out and say anything anymore," he said.

Police chief Parent said on Daybreak that he couldn’t comment on James’s complaint specifically, but he did say there are mechanisms to help facilitate conciliation in cases of racial profiling.

He also said that it doesn’t help that only 10 per cent of the Montreal police force is a member of a visible minority. Parent said the department struggles with recruiting non-white officers.

"For some, it's a trust issue, maybe. For others, maybe it's not a respectable profession for them," he said.

James intends to file a human-rights complaint as well as a complaint with the police ethics commissioner.

Just before Christmas, Benaiah McDonald got some bad news. He learned that his years-long effort to see condemned as racial discrimination a police operation gone badly wrong had been denied by the Quebec Human Rights Commission. 9:01


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