Laval lawyer filing racial profiling complaint after Montreal police handcuff him in front of daughter
Kwadwo Yeboah says police searched his phone and wallet without a warrant, before handing him a $400 ticket
The first thing that came to Kwadwo Yeboah's mind when he saw his teenage daughter climb out of his car in tears was to ask her to document what was happening to him.
It was last Thursday evening, he was in the process of being handcuffed by Montreal police.
"I told her, 'Film! Film! Film!" Yeboah said on a sidewalk near Chinatown where he was pulled over last week.
On Monday, the 38-year-old defence lawyer reenacted the way a Montreal police officer grabbed and twisted his arm moments after pulling him over, as several other officers stood by.
Yeboah said he was initially told he was being arrested because the officer believed his driver's licence was fake.
But after police appeared to search through his phone and wallet while he was in the back of their cruiser, he said they told him they were releasing him with a ticket for holding a cellphone while driving.
Yeboah believes he was unfairly targeted because he is Black, and that there was no reason officers should have put him in handcuffs for thinking he had a bogus licence, not when they could have simply seized the document and his vehicle.
Consequently, Yeboah said, he is filing a complaint to the Commissaire à la déontologie policière, as well as to Quebec's human rights commission. He said he hopes speaking out will help prevent it from happening to others.
"I'm a firm believer that we should all be treated fair, but if I looked like a Jean Tremblay, I don't think I would have been in handcuffs, given a ticket, just for having held a cellphone," Yeboah said.
The Laval resident and his daughter, Kenya Yeboah-Whyne, were pulled over on their way to picking up some food in Chinatown at around 6 p.m. Thursday.
Yeboah said a Montreal police car drove up alongside and signalled him to pull over. After Yeboah gave the officer his licence and while he was looking for his insurance papers, another police cruiser arrived and double-parked next to him.
He said when he got out of the car to show the first officer the insurance documents, the officer told him he was under arrest and produced the handcuffs.
Yeboah believes the officer thought his licence was fake because it is an older version of the current document, though it is valid until 2023. But he maintained the officer acted too fast in moving to arrest him.
"If a cop can't tell the difference between a real and fake licence, something must have gone wrong in their training," Yeboah said.
Meanwhile, his daughter stepped out of the car to try to make sense of what was happening. That's when he told her to film because, he said, he didn't know what could happen next.
The video shows a chaotic scene with two police cars and her father being hustled into the back of one. There is no sound because she was on a phone call while filming.
"I was like, 'Oh my god, why are they all here for this small, little thing?' It was just crazy," Kenya said.
As Yeboah was detained in the back of the cruiser, he said he noticed police looking through his phone. It was then he told them he was a lawyer, and the information on his phone was covered by solicitor-client privilege:
"They started to laugh, and I asked them what's so funny?" he said.
After searching his wallet and finding his Quebec Bar Association membership card, Yeboah said their behaviour changed.
"I think at that point they realized, there's something, we probably made a mistake or I don't know what they realized," he said.
In the end they released him and sent him on his way with a $400 ticket for holding a cellphone while driving. The ticket bears no mention of any invalid or fake licence.
A spokesperson for the Montreal police said the service can't comment on every video of police interventions circulating on social media — Yeboah posted the snippet filmed by his daughter to his Facebook page — and added citizens have a right to lodge a formal complaint if they feel wronged during such an intervention.
With files from Simon Nakonechny