Ottawa man demands apology after traffic stop for expired plates that weren’t expired
OTTAWA -- An Ottawa man who was pulled over by a police officer last month while driving a rental car is seeking an apology from the Ottawa Police Service.
Jean-Claude Fenelon was stopped by an Ottawa police officer on July 27 for what the officer said was an expired licence plate sticker. However, the sticker was not expired.
Fenelon says he believes the stop was racially motivated. The police service said in a statement the officer “fully apologized” after realizing he made a mistake.
"I was just driving my car and I saw the police, he looked at the window,” Fenelon told CTV News Ottawa. “After he looked at the window, I’d say 10 seconds, I saw he pulled me in the back. I asked him, why did you pull me over for? He tells me my licence plate expired. I tell him this is not expired; this a rental car."
Fenelon recorded a two-minute-and-20-second video of the encounter. In the video, the officer asks Fenelon to see a copy of the rental agreement for the Audi A4 sedan, and asks how long he has had the car.
At one point, the officer said, "the validation tag expired in December" and "the onus is on the driver to have validated plates."
At one point, Fenelon asks if he can get out of the car and see the licence plate himself. As Fenelon and the officer walk to the back of the car and the video shows a licence plate sticker valid through December 2020, the officer said, "Oh. That's my mistake."
Fenelon asks the officer if he was stopped because he’s Black. The officer responds, "Stop It. No. Never. I didn't even see who was driving the car. I was looking at the plate, sir."
Fenelon tells the officer, "I've been getting pulled by police officers asking where I come from. I'm tired of this."
During an interview with CTV News Ottawa on Wednesday, Fenelon recounted his conversation with the officer after he discovered the licence plate sticker was not expired.
"I say, why all this time did you tell me the plate was expired. Have you checked on your computer to see if the plate was expired? …I just feel like this was not nothing with the plate expiry, it was for something different."
The Justice for Abdirahman Coalition posted the video on Twitter. Fenelon said he decided to share it after police did not respond to phone calls about the incident.
"Calling them and leaving them a voice mail, nothing happened. I think this is really unfair. I don't want this to happen to anybody."
In a statement to CTV News Ottawa, the Ottawa Police Service said: “We have reviewed the video and the resulting social media posts. There was a respectful officer trying to ensure road safety while explaining his concerns to the driver."
"There was a respectful driver trying to safely operate his rented vehicle while explaining his actions to the officer. During the interaction, the officer realized he made a mistake – he owned it and fully apologized for it."
The statement adds the service "is very aware of the legitimate concerns raised by community members about racial profiling. As a service, we strive to make all of our interactions with the public respectful and bias-neutral."
Fenelon tells CTV News Ottawa he wants both an apology and changes within the Ottawa Police Service.
"This is not fair. Pulling people all the time and asking them their registration and insurance, this is not fair. This is truly not fair," he said. "(The officer) really know that this plate was not expired and I really understand that this is just an excuse, telling me that was my mistake.
"Those kids are going to grow up, and I want them to see that they're not going to live in the same system that we have been living 10 years or 20 years ago,” he added, with his daughter sitting next to him. "My daughter is 11 years old, so in the future I want them to see that this is not going to happen again."