The state protects the state. Killer cops are rarely charged in Canada. And when they are, they are typically acquitted, even in cases in which they have obviously acted in a dubious, reckless, or murderous manner.
Quebec City police officer Simon Beaulieu backed his police car over Guy Blouin on September 3, 2014, killing the 48-year-old. Beaulieu used this lethal force against Blouin for no other reason than a baseless suspicion that Blouin had stolen a bike. This was apparently a case of class-based police profiling of a working class person in a working class neighborhood. Blouin had, in fact purchased his bike. Officer Beaulieu was charged in October 2015 of criminal negligence and dangerous driving causing death after he struck and killed Blouin.
On Friday, January 12, 2018, killer cops Beaulieu was found not guilty on both counts by Quebec Court Judge René de la Sablonnière. A not surprising result, no matter how unjust.
De la Sablonnière said the elements of proof presented to him did not show without a reasonable doubt that Beaulieu’s actions that day were dangerous, despite the fact that he sped backwards the wrong way on a one way street and drove over a cyclist who had, in fact done nothing wrong and posed no threat to the public or the officer. The judge concluded: “This was a sad and unfortunate accident” (quoted in Page 2018). But actively driving backwards over someone on a bike is not an “accident.”
The judge reached his conclusion despite the fact that the Crown prosecutor’s expert witness was a Sûreté du Québec crime reconstruction expert (another cop) who testified the police cruiser was going 44 kilometers per hour when it struck Blouin. The judge simply decided to side with the defense version of events which posed the police cruiser’s speed at 22 kilometers per hour. Why side with defense (posing a self-interested estimate) against one provided by a police expert (usually believed unquestioningly in cases against civilians)? The answer is that the state is always predisposed to protect the state in cases of police harm to civilians, under even the most egregious circumstances.
Incredibly, De la Sablonnière said Beaulieu made sure the coast was clear before backing up. This despite that obvious case that it was not clear—as evidenced by the fact that he ran Blouin over. How could he have ensured the coast was clear? Then the judge blamed faulty ABS brakes, a scenario only raised by a defense promoted and provided witness. Said de la Sablonnière: “He could not foresee there was a problem with the brakes” (quoted in Page 2018). But why was he speeding backward toward someone on a bicycle anyway? That is the question.
Throughout his ruling De la Sablonnière repeated that in order for a person to be found guilty of criminal negligence, his actions had to be significantly out of step with what is considered to be normal behavior. But he made sure to stress that normal or expected behavior had to be considered differently for police officers than for civilians (see the contradiction there—normal defined as different for some).
Stuart Edwards, a member of a citizens’ committee from the working class Saint-Roch neighborhood where the accident happened, pointed out that the reasoning behind the ruling is hard to accept (Page 2018). And clearly it is for anyone not ready to accept class-profiling of poor ad working class people or to treat police in a privileged manner within a legal system that otherwise brags of “equality before the law” (yes, we know that is a myth).
Said Edwards, from the committee formed in response to Blouin’s killing and who was present in court at each step in the trial: “That’s a judicial impunity for a policeman, because he’s a policeman. I don’t buy that. I’m personally disappointed. I don’t accept this — I think it’s wrong” (quoted in Page 2018).
As should we all. And Edwards noted that the committee is very much concerned with the effect the not guilty ruling will have in the community. It validates the exertion of lethal force by police against people in a poor and working class community under any circumstances and with impunity.
The city’s “police brotherhood” confirmed that concern saying the court decision recognizes that society must give special consideration to police officers. That sounds a lot like a threat.
Page, Julia. 2018. “Quebec City Police Officer Acquitted of All Charges in 2014 Death of Cyclist.” CBC News January 12. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/verdict-police-officer-guy-blouin-trial-1.4483566