Questions over video of Edmonton police arrest showing knee near driver’s neck 

A video showing Edmonton police officers arresting a man on the ground – with one officer pinning him down using his knee – has the National Council of Canadian Muslims calling for answers.

A video showing Edmonton police officers arresting a man on the ground – with one officer pinning him down using his knee – is receiving backlash.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims says it is “disturbed” and “outraged” by what it calls the use of excessive force by police.

The NCCM says the video shows a Black, Muslim Edmontonian being arrested on April 21 after police pulled him over for speeding following prayer at a south Edmonton mosque.

NOTE: Full video below. Some people may find it disturbing.

“The victim was pulled over by EPS officers for allegedly going 47 km/h in a 30 zone,” according to the NCCM.

Edmonton police have confirmed the man was stopped for speeding in a playground zone during school hours – at 2:32 p.m. Police say it happened on Millwoods Road between 36 Avenue and 36B Avenue.

The NCCM says the man requested a supervisor be present before giving his license and identifying information over to police, because the “officer appeared to be agitated.”

“The officers then violently pulled the victim out of the car and put him in a restraint position, with one of the officers putting their knee on the victim’s neck,” Said Omar, the NCCM’s Alberta advocacy officer, told CityNews.

“That’s my neck, that’s my neck,” the man, who was allegedly injured, can be heard saying in the video. The NCCM would not go into details about the man’s injuries.

“Make no mistake about it, having a knee violently pinned on the back of a man’s neck over an alleged minor speeding infraction – there were no Criminal Code charges – could have, as all Canadians know, produced far more tragic results,” said Omar.

Video showing Edmonton police officers arresting a man – with one officer pinning him down using his knee. (Courtesy: TikTok/@nccmuslims)

In a statement issued late Wednesday afternoon, EPS says the driver refused to give his name, licence, insurance or registration to the officers.

“These requests were made repeatedly over several minutes and a warning of arrest was provided more than once,” police said.

“The officer then directed the driver to exit the vehicle, which he refused. The primary officer and a second officer then reached into the vehicle, taking the driver by both arms, and pulled him out. The driver continued to resist and refused to comply with police direction and was pulled to the ground where he continued to struggle and not comply with police instructions.”

‘You’re racist, you’re racist’

The one-minute video of the incident shared on social media by the NCCM only begins once the driver is already on the ground.

Edmonton police allege the video is actually five minutes long, but say the NCCM had previously only shared a 15-second excerpt prior to releasing one minute’s worth of footage on social media.

“NCCM has, to date, refused to provide the entire video to the EPS notwithstanding that it was requested during an in-person meeting with NCCM representatives on April 25, 2023, and in subsequent interactions as recent as (Wednesday),” EPS said.

In a response to the EPS statement, the NCCM said: “We did formally give notice to EPS this morning that we will be filing a formal complaint to the PSB. During that process, evidence will be weighed and adduced, and the victim will fully cooperate with that process.

“We also offered to provide a full unedited copy of the video to EPS but asked that there were assurances of confidentiality and non-disclosure since there is video of the victim’s children in the video. EPS did not feel they could guarantee that confidentiality.”

On the one-minute video, the man can be heard shrieking loudly while his wife repeatedly shouts, “can you please stop.” At one point an officer, the one pinning the man down, says “tell your husband to relax.”

“You’re not supposed to do this,” the wife, who is filming, says in the video. “There’s kids in the car crying; they are scared.”

“You’re racist, you’re racist,” the man on the ground says near the end of the minute-long video. “I’m Muslim, you can tell.”

While Omar did not claim the incident occurred because the man was Muslim, an NCCM media release did specify he “was easily identifiable as Muslim given that he was wearing traditional clothing, including a turban and a thobe.”

Driver asked to be taken to hospital 

Police confirmed the man was arrested, and EMS was called “due to the driver’s agitated state.” While they allege he was medically cleared, police say the man asked to be taken to hospital because his shoulder was sore.

“The officers issued tickets for speeding, failing to produce his driver’s license, and failing to produce registration and insurance, and told the driver he was free to go,” police said.

Edmonton police say neither the NCCM nor the driver have filed a formal complaint.

Omar tells CityNews the incident was particularly shocking because it happened on Eid, a day of celebration that marks the end of Ramadan.

“Having such a violent arrest happen in front of his children, in front of his wife – as you can see from the video, she was horrified – I can imagine going forward, every Eid, the kids will probably remember this,” he said. “This will be very difficult for them to get over.

“The family has suffered significant mental distress, including his young children unfortunately.”

Distrust of police within the community

The NCCM says it’s received many calls from community members following the incident.

“People want answers,” said Omar. “People want to know how this resulted in someone being dragged out of the car, an officer placing a knee on his neck. This could have resulted in the victim losing his life for a minor infraction, a speeding ticket, it’s uncalled for.

“The community is frustrated… They want justice.”

A staff lawyer with the NCCM says the incident has created distrust between the community and police.

“This just proves more work needs to be done,” said Dalal Souraya.

That same concern was echoed by University of Alberta criminology professor Temitope Oriola.

“Quite frankly this kind of incident make nonsense of all the community outreach that the police regularly conduct,” he said. “What is the essence of all those efforts and resources in our schools, community events and so forth when we keep having this kind of incident?”

The NCCM says it intends to support the victim legally. It also says it’s reached out to Edmonton police and has begun a discussion with the force’s leadership.

Souraya wonders what type of training is being done within Edmonton’s police force.

“To make sure excessive use isn’t being used, especially in instances where we’re dealing with a man with kids in his car,” she said.

“It brings up a bigger question of use of force.”

But Edmonton police say after reviewing the investigative file, the 15-second excerpt of the video previously shared with them and the one-minute excerpt posted on social media, they do not intend to investigate the matter further.

WATCH: Video shows Edmonton police use knee-to-neck move (2018)

Edmonton police previously came under fire for an officer using a knee-on-neck restraint during a 2018 arrest.

The man involved, Jean Claude Rukundo, later filed a $650,000 lawsuit against two officers and the police chief.

Reminiscent of George Floyd killing

Oriola, who is also president-elect of the Canadian Sociological Association, says it’s very difficult not to think of George Floyd, who was killed in police custody in Minneapolis in 2020, in such moments.

Floyd died on May 25, 2020, after a police officer used his knee to pin the man’s neck to the ground for nine-and-a-half minutes.

“It’s obviously very reminiscent of the death of George Floyd,” said Oriola. “It was the restraining tactic that was used to devastating effect. While the George Floyd killing got international attention, there have been several others since then with similar or in some cases identical tactics.

“And that raises in my mind questions of the quality of training that officers are being given… At what point specific kinds of use of force tactics is appropriate. That seems to be in a state of flux right now. There seems to be a massive overreaction to every minor infraction.

“Was that restraint necessary? Was it really necessary to hold him in that position for as long as they did? And what exactly were they trying to achieve? Could verbal engagement have helped?”

@nccmuslims WARNING: Police violence and brutality We are extremely disturbed and outraged by the treatment of a Black Muslim man by local police officer in Edmonton, Alberta last Friday. We are assisting him and his family. If you are a witness to this incident, please contact us: #muslimsincanada #muslimtiktok #policebrutaility ♬ original sound - NCCM

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