Quebec's police watchdog slammed for favouring officers' version of events following Montreal man's death
Judge rules BEI lacked transparency following death of Koray Celik in 2017
The family of a Montreal man who died during a police operation has been awarded $30,000 in damages in a civil suit against Quebec's police watchdog.
In his ruling issued Tuesday, Quebec court Judge Louis Riverin found the investigative body was neither impartial nor transparent in its communications with the public about the case.
Koray Kevin Celik died at age 28 in March 2017 after his parents called 911 saying he was intoxicated and in crisis.
Four Montreal police officers responded to the call at the family's home in the suburb of Île–Bizard.
June and Cesur Celik say they watched as their son was kicked, choked and beaten with batons until his body lay still. Then his breathing stopped.
Prosecutors ruled that no charges would be laid against any officer involved, following an investigation by the police watchdog, Quebec"s Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes (BEI).
They dragged our son's name through the mud. They did tremendous injustice not only to him, but all our family.— Cesur Celik
The BEI takes over cases when civilians are seriously injured or killed in police operations. Its findings are given to Quebec's prosecution service, which decides whether to press charges.
The family argued in its lawsuit the BEI had caused moral damages for a misleading news release issued 18 months after Koray's death, prior to the decision from the prosecution.
In his ruling, Riverin said the BEI's statement in August 2018 lacked transparency and failed to maintain the "confidence of the public."
Riverin found that the statement did not provide a full update on the findings of the BEI's investigation, and was written from the point of view of police.
Riverin noted the Celik family had expressed concern about the statement prior to it being made public because it did not include the version of events recounted by family witnesses.
The statement from the BEI said that Celik acted in an "aggressive manner" toward the officers — language the judge said served as a defence for the police.
Riverin wrote that "a reasonable person may have the impression that this text is written to justify the police intervention and that it is a conclusion."
"It should be remembered that the mission of the BEI is not to justify police action, on the contrary. Whether this intervention is justified or not, that is not the question," the judge wrote.
"By publishing only one version, that of the police officers involved, do we not run the risk of publishing half-truths, distorting reality and undermining public confidence?"
Riverin awarded $10,000 to each of Celik's parents, and $5,000 to his two brothers, Tyler and Deniz Celik.
'Not above the law'
In an interview, Cesur said he was grateful to the court for its decision. He said the decision shows the BEI is "not above the law" and that it is biased in favour of police.
He said the statement issued by the BEI in August 2018 effectively blamed his son for his own death.
"They dragged our son's name through the mud. They did tremendous injustice not only to him, but all our family," he said.
The BEI declined to comment, saying it would study the decision. Quebec's Public Security Ministry, which oversees the BEI, didn't return a request for comment.
The family filed another lawsuit against the City of Montreal and Urgences-Santé in connection with his death. That lawsuit is on hold pending a public inquiry.
With files from Steve Rukavina