The Fight against Racial Profiling – Enough is enough! Ensemble Montréal and human rights defence groups demand the SPVM deploy body-worn cameras (body cams)
MONTREAL, Nov. 21, 2019 -On the eve of the Public Safety Commission’s meeting to consider the Rapport sur les interpellations policières à la lumière des identités racisées des personnes interpellées (a report on police stop-and-checks and the racialized identities of the persons arrested), a coalition of officials from Ensemble Montréal and human rights defence organizations are calling for concrete measures to put an end once and for all to racial profiling by the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM).
The report, which was prepared for the SPVM by three independent researchers, traces a grim picture of the SPVM’s work with visible minorities. For example, it reveals that indigenous and black people are between 4 and 5 times more likely than whites to be stopped by SPVM officers. People of Arab descent are on average twice as likely to be stopped as a white person.
“This report confirms what many Montrealers suspected: racial profiling is a widespread practice within the police force. Given this alarming observation, we’re asking for a rapid and tangible intervention to ensure that racial profiling and discrimination ceases within the SPVM. Enough is enough! We don’t want an umpteenth plan of action; we have said for a long time that the best solution is to deploy body-worn cameras or “body cams” across the SPVM,” said Mr. Abdelhaq Sari, vice-chair of the Public Safety Commission and Official Opposition spokesman for public safety matters.
Body cams are necessary
Adopted by police services in many cities around the world, body cams have the advantage of objectively capturing events occurring during police interventions as well as effectively collecting evidence. They generally make police work more transparent and strengthen the bond of trust with the population.
In Montreal, a pilot project on body cams took place between May 2016 and April 2017. Despite encouraging results, the SPVM chose not to go forward with full deployment, citing in particular the issues of cost and “intrusion” into the work of police officers. This decision was rapidly ratified by the Plante administration.
“Once again, Mayor Plante has refused to defend Montrealers’ interests and bowed to the SPVM’s arguments without realizing the impact this will have on all those who denounce racial profiling. Montrealers are in favour of body cameras. They’ve been proven. They are known to contribute greatly to modifying behaviours by both sides during a police action. Given the troubling data contained in the report on police stop-and-checks and racial identities, we need concrete solutions to curb racial profiling within the SPVM. This is why we are asking Mayor Plante’s administration to revisit its decision and order the deployment of body cams by the SPVM,” explained Mr. Sari.
The end of “routine” checks.
Messrs. Fo Niemi and Alain Babineau of the Center for Research Action on Race Relations (CRARR), who will also be present for the meeting of the Public Safety Commission, deplore the SPVM’s timid response to the report on police stop-and-checks and racial identities. To them, it demonstrates that the magnitude of the problem is still not well understood within police forces.
“More than a month and a half has elapsed since the tabling of the report on routine stop-and-checks by the SPVM. However, at CRARR, we continue to receive incident reports that tell us nothing has changed; it’s business as usual at the SPVM” said Mr. Babineau.
“The City of Montreal must take immediate measures to protect the public. We ask the Mayor to order the Director of the SPVM to immediately end routine checks by its officers. Guidelines must also be put in place to advise police officers on which kinds of checks are tolerated and which are not. Such guidelines would demonstrate the city and the police department are committed to wanting to prevent abuse,” added Mr. Niemi.
Despite speeches by the Plante administration, Ensemble Montréal’s elected officials remain unconvinced that the situation is being taken seriously. “The best proof is that they’re convening a public meeting of the Public Safety Commission to study the conclusions of the report on a Friday morning at 9 a.m. The SPVM and the administration give the impression that they’re open to dialogue, but in reality, it seems as if they don’t want to hear what citizens have to say,” concluded Mr. Sari.
AVAILABILITY – PLEASE NOTE: Messrs. Sari, Niemi and Babineau will be available to speak with the media at the conclusion of the Public Safety Commission’s session on Friday November 22, at noon.
For further information: Marc-Antoine Audette, Press Attaché, Office of the Official Opposition, (438) 925-0715