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Edmonton police fined $80,000 after two black men were wrongfully arrested and pepper-sprayed

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The Alberta Human Rights Commission has fined Edmonton police more than $80,000 after ruling that two black men were racially discriminated against during an unlawful arrest.

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

The commission had previously ruled that Edmonton police had discriminated against the men based on stereotypes about black men. In a recent decision on May 13, it said John and Judianga were each entitled to $40,000 for the “violation of their dignity” they suffered.

The men told the commission that they had seen a woman throwing a stone through a car window. They had arrested the woman and waited for the police.

According to court documents, the first officer to arrive sprayed the men with pepper spray, ordered them to lie on the ground and handcuffed them.

The officer told the commission that it was a chaotic scene. The men were arrested while the woman was taken to a police car and cared for.

Later that night, after learning more details about the incident, police uncuffed the men, helped them wash their eyes, and let them go.

According to the documents, an officer also told the men that they should be glad that they had not been shot.

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

The commission reviewed previous cases and concluded that a liquidated damages award of approximately $20,000 might be appropriate, according to a recent decision signed by commission member Erika Ringseis.

The two men, who sought $50,000 in damages, were able to distinguish their cases and were recently awarded higher damages, the decision said.

But Ringseis agreed with the police's argument that “the objective analysis of the damage must be tempered by separating the use of force from the manner and timing of the use of force.”

Ultimately, the commission concluded that each of the men should be awarded general damages in the amount of $40,000.

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