Montreal couple ticketed $888 for 'excessive noise,' accuses Montreal police of racial profiling

Tayana Jacques and Brian Mann say they were laughing on St-Laurent Boulevard when Montreal police officers arrested them without justification earlier this month. They say they will file complaints with the SPVM's ethics board and the Quebec Human Rights Commission.

Tayana Jacques and Brian Mann plan to file complaints with police ethics board, Quebec Human Rights Commission

Tayana Jacques and her boyfriend, Brian Mann, say Montreal police used excessive force and arrested them without justification on April 7 as they were walking on St-Laurent Boulevard around 10 a.m. (Verity Stevenson/CBC)

It started off as a typical Saturday morning for Tayana Jacques and her boyfriend, Brian Mann.

The couple was walking on St-Laurent Boulevard, near Jacques' home, on their way to get breakfast on April 7.

It was around 10 a.m., and they were chatting and laughing loudly when they say two police officers pulled up beside them.

"That's when they handcuffed me, pushed me onto the hood, started going through all of my clothes, frisking me," said Jacques, who is of Haitian descent. 

Mann said he stood against a nearby wall as Jacques was being detained, and he asked the officers why they were arresting her.

Three more officers arrived soon afterward, ran toward him and threw him on the ground, he said.

"One cop [had] his knee against the back of my head, slamming my face into the pavement. Then someone came around and pepper-sprayed me while I was on the ground," Mann said Saturday, as the couple made their case public.

A Montreal police spokesperson said the SPVM can't comment on the incident until Monday.

Ticketed for excessive noise

Mann, 31, and Jacques, 34, each received a $444 ticket for excessive noise, for a total of $888. The couple plans to file complaints with the Montreal police's ethics board and the Quebec Human Rights Commission.

They alleged Montreal police racially-profiled them, and used excessive force during the arrest. 

"Honestly, I don't think this could have happened if I was a white woman who had been walking down the street with her boyfriend," Jacques said.

Tayana Jacques, a Montreal web developer, says she no longer feels safe in her own neighbourhood, after police arrested her near her home in the Plateau. (CBC)

Police officers also repeatedly called her a drug addict while she was in custody, she said. Both Jacques and Mann were released shortly after being arrested.

The couple wants Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante and Luc Ferrandez — mayor of the Plateau-Mont-Royal borough, where the incident occurred — to take action.

"We need to figure out a way that everyone in the city can feel safe being who they are," Jacques said.

Group calls for greater accountability

Fo Niemi is executive director of the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations, which has documented several recent cases of racial profiling involving Montreal police.

He described what happened to Jacques and Mann as having "all the ingredients of a typical racial profiling case in which excessive force is used without justification."

Fo Niemi of the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations said Montreal police need to do more to combat racial profiling if the force wants to maintain the public's trust. (CBC)

"This kind of escalation is very, very disturbing. It could have been worse for this couple. We don't see any reason why it got to this," said Niemi, who is helping the couple take legal action. 

He added that Montreal police need to do more to combat racial profiling and the excessive use of force by some officers if it wants to maintain the public's trust.

"The loss of confidence in the police is something we need to avoid," he said.

For Jacques, however, the psychological damage has been done. A web developer, she says she hasn't been able to go back to work since the incident took place, and she feels uncomfortable out in public.

"I can't really leave my house, and it's my neighbourhood," she said.

"It's not really fair to feel this way."

With files from Verity Stevenson