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Edmonton police fined after Black men who called for help pepper sprayed, arrested

The Alberta Human Rights Commission has fined the Edmonton Police Service after ruling two Black men who had called police for help were instead racially discriminated against by officers during a wrongful arrest.

The commission, in a decision issued earlier this month, said that the two South Sudanese men named Yousef John and Caesar Judianga were each entitled to $40,000 for “injury to dignity” they faced after calling police for help in May 2017 for a crime they had witnessed.

The men told the commission they had witnessed a woman throwing a rock through a car window. They made a citizen’s arrest and were waiting for police.

Court documents say that, instead of helping the pair, the first officer to arrive pepper-sprayed the men, ordered them to get on the ground and put them in handcuffs while he helped the white woman the men were trying to report.

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“All persons are equal in dignity, rights and responsibilities without regard to race, colour, ancestry or place of origin,” said Erika Ringseis, a member of the commission in the court documents.

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“This was not the experience of John or Judianga.”

The commission was told police arrived to a chaotic scene, “with people shouting and the accused crying.”

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The men were arrested and placed in handcuffs while the woman was taken to a police car and given support.

“The men were sitting on pavement, had to share minimal water, no one took their statements, no one apologized for the misunderstanding, no one appeared to be interested in helping them with the damaged property, they were told that they needed to calm down and they were sent home walking,” the documents said.

The documents said an officer who arrived later to the scene also told the men they should feel “lucky” they weren’t shot after they expressed their anger and frustration towards what police were doing.

“Certainly, the complainants received the statement, and the manner in which it was delivered, as a racially charged comment,” Ringseis said in the documents.

John told the tribunal the arrest changed his life. He said he doesn’t sleep or eat well and “no longer goes out in the evening or enjoys activities in the city.”

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Judianga told the commission he felt similar anguish and had injured his knee after it was pressed into the ground during the arrest.

Edmonton police have also been ordered to compensate John for lost wages after he took time off from work to recover. Judianga will be compensated for a torn jacket.

The men had asked in their complaint that Edmonton police write an apology letter, but the commission said it would “likely lack sincerity.”

&© 2024 The Canadian Press

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