A First Nations man says he has filed a complaint of alleged misconduct and racism within the Winnipeg Police Service after he was handcuffed and placed in a police car in what he believes is a case of racial profiling.
Junior Cochrane, a 41-year-old man from Peguis First Nation and an ambassador of the First Nations Health and Social Secretariat of Manitoba (FNHSSM), said he was working on Feb. 3, in Winnipeg patrolling outside a hotel when he was stopped by police officers who asked what he was doing.
He said he told the officers he was working.
“I was trying to reach my phone, and then the officers were getting ready to unholster their firearms, and then I just put my hands up and I was like, ‘I’m just trying to grab my phone,'” Cochrane said , adding the officers questioned how much he had been drinking.
He said he told the officers he had not been drinking as he was working.
“They put two sets of handcuffs on me and then they pushed me into the car and they told me they were detaining me for assaulting the building manager. I was like, ‘Well you’ve got the wrong guy,'” he said.
Cochrane said he was told by officers he fit the description of a suspect who had assaulted the building’s manager. However, he said after a while, the police removed the handcuffs and let him go. He said one of the officers apologized to him.
Brenda Sanderson with the FNHSSM said she was shocked and taken back when she got the call one of their ambassadors had been handcuffed and put in the back of a police car.
“When we spoke about this later on, it was like a slap in the face for a group of people who have been working really hard and diligently throughout this pandemic time, and completely inappropriate in my mind,” she said.
“We were angry, we were hurt, and we really wanted to address what had happened.”
She said FNHSSM reached out to the Winnipeg police to sit in a sharing circle to discuss what had happened.
“We offered to sit with the officers involved to do what we could to try to understand each other and to share a bit about what we had been involved with and how it affected us,” she said.
However, Sanderson said the police service declined.
Cochrane said he has now filed a complaint with the Law Enforcement Review Agency on allegations of misconduct and racism by the Winnipeg Police Service.
The Winnipeg Police Service told CTV News it cannot comment on matters before the Law Enforcement Review Agency.
Andrew Minor, the commissioner of the Law Enforcement Review Agency, told CTV News in an email that the agency cannot confirm if a complaint has been received or provide any comment related to any investigation.
Chief Sheldon Kent of Black River First Nation, chair of the FNHSSM, said it is disturbing to hear of this type of incident.
“We can’t tolerate this anymore,” he said. “It is (2022). We should be able to co-exist and live in a good way, but instead, our people are far too often treated like this and it is not acceptable.”
Cochrane said this is not the first time something like this has happened to him, though he hopes in sharing his story it may bring about change.
“I hope the police service is willing to do something to change their practices, better accommodate our people because we are all people of this land – it doesn’t matter what color we are.”