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Edmonton police fined $80K after two Black men pepper sprayed, wrongfully arrested

The Alberta Human Rights Commission has fined the Edmonton Police Service more than $80,000, after ruling two Black men were racially discriminated against during a wrongful arrest.

Yousef John and Caesar Judianga, two South Sudanese men, were pepper-sprayed and arrested in May 2017 after calling 911 to try to stop a crime. They filed human rights complaints in 2018.

The commission previously ruled that Edmonton police discriminated against the men due to stereotypes of Black men. In a recent decision, dated May 13, it said John and Judianga are each entitled to $40,000 for “injury to dignity” they faced.

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

Court documents say the first officer to arrive pepper-sprayed the men, ordered them to get on the ground and put them in handcuffs.

The officer told the commission it was a chaotic scene, and the men were arrested while the woman was taken to a police car and given support.

Later that night, after learning more details about what happened, police took the handcuffs off on the men, helped them clean their eyes and let them go.

The documents say an officer also told the men they should feel lucky they weren’t shot.

No personal liability was found against the police officers in question, Const. Celia Frattin and Const. Jordan Steele.

The commission reviewed past cases, which suggested general damages of about $20,000 may be appropriate, according to the recent decision signed by commission member Erika Ringseis.

The two men, who sought $50,000 in general damages, were able to distinguish their cases and higher damage amounts have been awarded recently, the decision says.

But Ringseis agreed with police’s submission that the “objective analysis of harm must be tempered by a separation of the use of force from the manner and timing in which the force was applied.”

As a result, the commission landed on $40,000 for general damages for each of the men.

John also received $2,550 to compensate for lost wages and reimbursement for over-the-counter medications. Judianga is entitled to an extra $93 to compensate for a torn jacket.

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