Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario rules race played a factor in police's treatment of six-year-old girl

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The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario has ruled two Peel Regional Police officers used unnecessary force on a suspect due to their race during an altercation with a six-year-old black girl in 2016.

According to a news release, the two officers carried the girl to her school’s office, laid her on her stomach, and cuffed her wrists and ankles. She remained handcuffed for 28 minutes.

Adjudicator Brenda Bowlby described the actions of the officers as “a clear overreaction,” and believes the child’s race had a direct impact on the way the officers treated her.

“While the officers had a legitimate duty to maintain the safety of the applicant, others and themselves in the circumstances where the applicant’s behaviour were challenging and might have created a safety risk, this did not give them licence to treat the applicant in a way that they would not have treated a White six-year-old child in the same circumstances,” Bowlby said in the 54-page report.

“I have concluded that the officers’ action in placing the applicant on her stomach, handcuffing her wrists behind her [back] and maintaining her in this position, with her ankles also handcuffed, for 28 minutes were disproportionate to what was necessary to provide adequate control and amounts to a clear overreaction in the circumstances,” Bowlby continued in the report.

Additionally, credibility was a factor in the case, as officers denied using handcuffs on the child. However, one of the officer’s notes indicated otherwise.

Due to a publication ban, no specific information regarding the victim’s name, the address of the school, or the specific city/town where she resides is available.

“Its hard to imagine another situation which would create a greater threat to a child’s sense of safety, dignity and well-being,” Roger Love, the applicant’s lawyer from the Human Rights Legal Support Centre, said in a news release.

“This case shows how implicit racial bias, and untrained officers can be a recipe for disaster. Police Service Boards across the province must take concrete steps to ensure that Black children, like all other children, are treated with compassion and respect,” he continued.

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