Toronto police officers found guilty in 'Neptune Four' case docked 15 days pay — combined
'The penalty is a joke,' said one of the victims, who was punched by an officer
Two Toronto police officers found guilty of misconduct for accosting four Black teenagers nearly a decade ago will lose a combined 15 days of pay for their actions.
The sentencing decision comes just over three months after a Toronto Police Service professional misconduct decision deemed Const. Adam Lourenco and Const. Sharnil Pais guilty of unlawful arrest — but said he didn't think the actions were racially biased. Lourenco was also found guilty of one count of discreditable conduct.
The one-two punch of the retired inspector conducting the hearing dismissing racism and only docking the officer's pay as punishment is tough, said the young man who was punched by Lourenco, but who cannot be identified because he was a minor at the time.
"The penalty is a joke," he said. "We have to start having a zero tolerance policy to police misconduct."
In his sentencing decision, the retired inspector leading the hearing wrote that both officers "breached the public trust" but that he was "mindful" of how long both officers "have had this hanging over their heads."
As a result, Lourenco will forfeit 12 days worth of pay, while Pais will forfeit just three.
Lourenco's financial penalty is steeper, the decision indicates, because he was once found asleep at an intersection while driving a vehicle. Years later, it says, he was also pulled over while speeding in a cop car. An open bottle of alcohol was found in the vehicle and Lourenco failed a breathalyzer test.
The teenagers' lawyer, Jeff Carolin, had asked for Lourenco to be dismissed — the stiffest possible penalty, saying the punishment is inadequate.
"I don't think it's serious enough to actually deter this kind of conduct in the future," he told CBC News.
Ideally, the punishment should deter other officers from similar behaviour, but the teenager Lourenco punched said this doesn't do that — it's "a slap on the wrist."
"He's only gotten 12 days no pay and it took 10 years to do this?" he said. The now 25-year-old told CBC News that anyone "enforcing the law… should be held to a higher standard. I don't think their profession allows for any excuses."
The case dates back to November 2011, when three 15-year-olds and one 16-year-old were walking on Neptune Drive in the Lawrence Heights neighbourhood. That it's taken so long to get this result is indicative of "how strenuous" the process is and "how difficult it is to get a result," Carolin said.
He said if there hadn't been video of the encounter and the boys didn't have supporters willing to connect them with lawyers then "none of this would have happened." That's important to remember, Carolin said, because "in their experience these kinds of incidents are commonplace… there are just so many that never make it to the spotlight."
On that November day, the two constables drove up in an unmarked van, stopped the teens and asked for identification — a practice known as "carding" that has since been banned across Ontario. One of the teenagers then asked if he was under arrest and tried to leave when the officer told him no.
'Incident had made him feel like a criminal'
"That's when Officer Lourenco decided to single me out and physically attacked me. He grabbed me. Then isolated me. He swore at me and said a lot of provocative things to try to aggravate me and I didn't respond," one of the complainants told CBC News in 2016.
A surveillance camera captured one officer hitting the teenager and another drawing his gun after the teenager's twin and two friends tried to intervene. Ultimately, the four teenagers were arrested, charged, and strip-searched. The charges were later withdrawn.
WATCH | Surveillance footage captures arrest of four teens on Neptune Drive
Of the four then-teenagers, one dropped out of the proceedings. Another, Yohannes Brhanu, was killed in an unsolved 2018 homicide.
Of the remaining two, one provided a victim impact statement, saying he no longer trusts police. On March 15, he told a sentencing hearing hearing "the incident had made him feel like a criminal but he hadn't done anything wrong" and that as a result he no longer "[relies] on his rights when interacting with police."
Either party may choose to appeal the decision. Carolin said he's in talks with his clients about that possibility now, although no decisions have been reached.
For now, the 25-year-old said he is leaning toward appealing.
"There is no profession more serious, I would argue, than a police officer," he said. "He falsely charged four teenagers, pulled out a gun and assaulted me. That does not sound like a cop anyone wants to deal with."
With files from Jasmin Seputis