Authorities still in denial about racial profiling
For the past nine months a litany of reports from different sources painted the ugly reality of the relationship between our community and police departments around Montreal.
Incidents of arbitrary and unjust interventions, tickets and even physical abuse of Blacks by the police have triggered calls for a governmental response to reign in a force that obviously is out of control when dealing with minorities.
Through it all, the three levels of governments, (The City of Montreal who employs the police, the provincial public Security minister, and the feds) have all been turning their heads away, refusing to come up with a comprehensive plan to deal with what is obviously systemic problem in the force.
Then came this proverbial “damning report” from a group of researchers delegated by the City of Montreal to look into police interceptions of individuals over four years between 2014 and 2017 showing the scope of the problem and the extent to which politicians and the leadership of the force are in a state of denial.
The report revealed that Blacks and Indigenous people were four times more likely to be stopped and checked by police than white people in Montreal. While Arab people were twice as likely to be targeted.
It also painted a troubling picture of the way police see Indigenous women, as they were 11 times more likely to be stopped than white women.
The stops and intervention studied did not result in tickets being issued or charges laid.
To any fair-minded Montrealer, this report would have been an acknowledgement of the ongoing complaints and accusations by minorities of racial profiling on the part of the police, but not to those in authority.
Definitely not racial profiling, Montreal police chief Sylvain Caron suggests.
In fact the top cop was prepared to go as far as saying that there are no racist officers in the department.
“We have police officers who are citizens and who, inevitably, have biases like all citizens can have. That’s the part we need to try to understand, and it’s a complex issue,” he was quoted in the Montreal Gazette.
For her part, his boss, Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante was quoted as saying that she was shocked by the group’s findings but no mention that she was ready to use the report as a staging ground for change in police behavior towards Blacks.
With denial so strong, it’s obvious that the will to implement steps to deal with that culture of abuse is not yet present neither with politicians nor authorities within the police department.
It’s really more evidence for minority groups, more so Blacks, Indigenous and Arab people that change is a long way out, because before change, there must be acceptance.
The top cop even went as far as equating what his officers are doing with safety and security.
“As police chief, what I want is to have a safe city,” he added. “So we need to find the right balance between respecting people’s rights and police officers being able to do their jobs.”
That’s frightening because the implication is that certain groups might be impediments in the concept of safety and security.
Obviously someone has to remind those in authorities that this continuing pattern of abuse by police officers is a human rights issue.
Snowdon city councilor Marvin Rotrand is calling for public hearings.
Dan Philip at the Black Coalition of Quebec (BCQ) has seen and heard enough to know that the needed change cannot be achieved under this climate of denial, and suggests that the Montreal police department be placed under trusteeship.
He says the cancer of racism within the force continues.
“We have been going through the same thing, time and time again, people are ending up in prison and their lives are being disrupted b no change,” he says. “Someone has to take charge of the SPVM and begin the necessary reform.”
He added that the BCQ is preparing to launch an on-line petition calling for the SPVM to be placed under trusteeship.
All that is in addition to the class-action lawsuit the BCQ is bringing forward to seek compensation from The City of Montreal for incidents of racial profiling by its police department. It was given the green light on August 7, by Quebec Superior Court justice André Provost.