A shower of “disproportionate” fines to a man with a “disturbed mental state”
Quebec City police officers gave a man over $ 700 in one go to a man whose “disturbed mental state” they found during a routine intervention that went to the slaps and handcuffs.
Le Soleil obtained a copy of the report from the Service de police de la Ville de Québec (SPVQ) which shows the escalation between the two police officers and Francis Lacroix, 25, who suffers from a schizotypal personality disorder, characterizes among others by fears of persecution. The SPVQ preferred not to comment on this specific case, because the legal proceedings are still ongoing.
Mr. Lacroix’s lawyer, Florence Boucher Cossette, denounces the “disproportionate” fines received by his client. She believes that this is a “typical case” where a person suffering from a mental health problem is punished more severely because he reacts abnormally to the intervention of the police.
The acts alleged against Francis Lacroix date back to July 12. Around 2:50 a.m., patrol officers Luc Turcotte and Vincent Germain stopped their car in a red light at the corner of Jeanne-Mance and Eugène-Lamontagne avenues, in Limoilou.
When the light turns green, Constable Germain honks the driver of the Hyundai Accent who had waited three or four seconds before committing. The police also note that the car’s exhaust system is “particularly noisy”.
A little further on Eugène-Lamontagne, the driver of the Hyundai activates his hazard lights and stops. The driver of the patrol car pulls up next to Francis Lacroix’s car and asks him if all is well. Mr. Lacroix replied that “yes” and said that he was looking for rue [de] Verdun.
The agent Turcotte also notes that the vehicle does not have a front bumper cover. The patroller then wants to give simple warnings to the driver (this is what he writes in his report). But the intervention takes an unexpected turn when the driver refuses to identify himself despite the multiple requests from the patroller.
The policeman opens the door and asks Francis Lacroix to get out of the vehicle. He informed him that if he did not provide his name, he would be arrested for obstructing the work of the police.
The policeman himself removes the belt and pulls the driver by the arm. Then, the latter finally agrees to leave the vehicle. Agent Turcotte places his hands on the vehicle, searches it and asks for his name again. Francis Lacroix still refuses. The officer informs him that he is under arrest and tries to bring the man’s right arm behind his back while Constable Germain takes care of the left arm.
Francis Lacroix resists, but does not attack the police. Agent Turcotte tries to distract with a slap in the face and manages to run his hand behind his back. The police fight with him against the vehicle and Constable Germain slaps him too. The patrolmen succeed in bringing him to the ground and handcuffing him.
They ransack it again in the police vehicle and find a wallet with a driver’s license, but no proof of registration or insurance. “At first glance, the driver had no reason not to provide his identity,” notes Constable Turcotte in his report.
The policeman asks Francis Lacroix if he has consumed. He replied: “Why should I have consumed?” And Agent Turcotte made another observation: “As the intervention progresses, I notice that his condition seems to be due to a medical problem, or even to mental health. Francis Lacroix mentions that he has been diagnosed with a schizotypal personality disorder.
About half an hour after the intervention began, Constable Turcotte called his lieutenant to discuss the rest of the intervention. He informs him that “everything seems to be linked to a non-medicated mental health problem”. The police then made the decision to call the organization PECH [Program of clinical supervision and accommodation], with which the Quebec police regularly collaborate for mental health cases.
On the Hyundai Accent, the police find three “minor defects” – in addition to the muffler noise and the absence of bumper covers, the emergency brake stopped working. In addition, they believe that Francis Lacroix is not in a condition to drive his car. “Mr. Lacroix trembles and cries. He seems disoriented, scared, ”notes Constable Turcotte. The Hyundai is being towed.
Francis Lacroix is then ” up and down “, describes the policeman. “At times, he cries, at other times he stares and no longer answers any questions.” Mr. Lacroix is taken to the Victoria Park police station, handcuffed behind his back. “I ask him if he is well, if he is in pain, but he does not respond, and sobs,” notes agent Turcotte.
A PECH worker arrives at the Victoria Park police station. Francis Lacroix is knitted. Fifteen minutes before leaving the police station, he personally received four statements of offense: one for obstructing the work of the police ($ 486), one for his non-compliant exhaust system ($ 108), one for not not have had their registration certificate ($ 63) and one for not having proof of insurance ($ 63). In total, the amount of the fines is $ 720.
At the beginning of his report, the officer Turcotte reported the event in a few words: “This is an audit of vehicle and a disturbed mental state.” According to counsel Francis Lacroix, M e Florence Boucher Cossette, the police should have taken this into account and not given him as many tickets.
“I think this is clearly disproportionate and inappropriate in the circumstances,” said M e Boucher Cossette. “I understand that the individual had to identify himself. But the police still have to exercise their judgment. ”
“It is wrong to say that the only thing to do is to give reports,” added the lawyer. At first, the police did not choose this option. They decide to give warnings. ”
M e Boucher Cossette argues that the case of Mr. Lacroix is far from isolated. On several occasions, she said that she had defended clients with mental health problems who had received a rain of tickets because they had difficulty coping with the police.
“People with mental health issues are not exempt from the law,” she says. But unlike “neurotypical” people who don’t have these problems, they are more likely to have difficulty responding to orders, she argues. “They will arouse the anger and annoyance of the police and they will end up with four statements of offense, while an individual who would have responded to the satisfaction of the police at the start of the intervention might not have had any statement of offense, “said M e Boucher Cossette.
PECH Director General, Benoît Côté, recalls the impact of judicialization on people who have mental health problems. “The fine has very difficult effects for the people we support. First, they have trouble paying back. And it creates a vicious circle. This stress ends up reinforcing the symptoms that people experience and they can become disorganized, ”he says.
Francis Lacroix pleaded not guilty to the four tickets he received. The rest of the legal proceedings will take place on February 27 at the municipal court of Quebec.
THE QUEBEC POLICE HAS THE “DUTY TO ACT”
The police are sensitive to the reality of people struggling with mental health problems, but they must ensure that their vehicles do not pose a danger to them or to citizens, argues the Quebec police.
As the legal proceedings against Francis Lacroix are not finished, the Quebec City Police Service (SPVQ) did not want to respond directly to the exit of lawyer Florence Boucher Cossette.
The SPVQ nevertheless refrains from lacking in sensitivity, claiming that its police intervene almost 15 times a day with people who have mental health problems or live in a homeless situation.
By virtue of their discretionary power, the police have the choice of whether or not to issue a ticket depending on the circumstances, such as the mental state of the person concerned, indicates Étienne Doyon, spokesperson for the SPVQ.
“The offender’s ability to recognize the offense and their awareness of it could, among other things, be a factor in policing decision-making,” notes Mr. Doyon.
If he finds a mechanical breakdown on a car that could endanger the safety of the citizen himself or of other road users, “the police have a duty to act,” notes Mr. Pelletier. He has the choice of giving a verbal warning or immediately giving a statement of offense.
Regarding Francis Lacroix’s vehicle, these were “minor defects”. The police first wanted to give him a verbal warning and register him with the Quebec Police Intelligence Center. But during the intervention, they decided to give him four tickets.
The police also have the option of giving a “road vehicle inspection notice” which gives the owner 48 hours to submit his vehicle to a mechanical inspection. The driver must provide proof to a peace officer that he took this step. If it does not meet the deadline, the police will consider it an offense.