12/16/2013 12:37 EST | Updated 02/15/2014 05:59 EST

Racial bias alleged in wrongful arrest suit against Toronto officers

Five Toronto police officers are accused of false arrest, assault and racial bias after they used a controversial practice known as carding to stop a group of black teenagers and a confrontation ensued.

Four boys all aged between 15 and 16 were stopped and asked for identification — called “carding” — along Neptune Drive in the Lawrence Heights housing complex near Highway 401 and Allen Road on Nov. 21, 2011.

One of the boys refused to cooperate, having recently heard from a judge that he did not have to provide identification to the police without cause.

A scuffle followed and the boys were arrested at gunpoint.

The incident was caught on tape by Toronto Community Housing cameras. An Independent Police Review determined the officers would be disciplined.

But now the boys are launching a civil suit against five officers, with each boy seeking $100,000 in damages.

“In the context of all the concern about carding and over policing of black youth, this is a particularly important case in my view,” said the lawyer representing the teenagers, Peter Rosenthal.

Rosenthal alleged that they boys were arrested “just because the one young man decided to assert his rights to not be questioned by police.”

The boy was thrown onto the ground and video reveals there were punches thrown by at least one officer. The boys were then strip-searched at the police station.

While the boys are seeking punitive damages in the civil suit, Rosenthal claimed there was a higher cause as well.

“The whole question of carding is racially bias. Young black men in particular are very disproportionately stopped by police officers with reasonable grounds to stop them,” he said on CBC’s Metro Morning.

He said young black men are often stopped twice a day by police.

“You feel like you’re in an occupied territory if that happens. And that’s what the police have done to some members of the community and that has to stop.”