Ah, the Yin and Yan of life... Just mere days after the Montreal Police Brotherhood announced it was “seriously uneasy” with the Tremblay administration, essentially implying a motion of non-confidence, Constable 728 (of the, infamous by now, pepper spraying incident during the student protests) made a comeback, and we all woke up to some serious non-confidence issues of our own. This time, regarding those who have sworn to protect and serve us.
Constable Stéphanie Trudeau was basically caught on video choke holding a man for the dangerous crime of… holding an open beer bottle on the street. In what quickly escalated into a violent and abusive power trip, the police officer is seen dragging the man down the stairs, as she unleashes an obscenity-laced tirade. The incident ends with 20 police cars coming to her…. rescue, since an “officer in distress” call was placed in the midst of it all. Twenty police cars to subdue a guy drinking a beer with his buddy outside his apartment... Where do I line up to pay more taxes, since they currently seem to be utilized so brilliantly by the people in charge?
Her explanation to her superior officer (also caught on tape) has been furiously making the rounds of social media all morning, and it’s the kind of language that made most of us wince. While the police have often been accused of racial profiling, Constable 728 has now made us aware that there’s a different kind of profiling floating around since Quebec’s Maple Spring made headlines. Prejudice against “red squares”, “poets”, and “Plateau artisses asti”. You know… the kind of dangerous criminals who emphatically denounce authority and hyperbolize police brutality every chance that they get. And here comes Constable 728 keeping dangerous artists in check and proving these “good for nothing, lazy hipsters” right.
Just look at this woman’s record! In 2002, she’s sanctioned by the Police Deontology (Ethics) Committee for aggressive behaviour against Ste. Justine Hospital staff members. This past May, during the student protests, she’s videotaped aggressively pepper spraying students for doing nothing more than verbally taunting her. When the video becomes an instant hit on YouTube, she isn’t suspended; she’s simply removed from student demonstrations duty. Five months later, the spotlight’s back on her, this time with an even more violent reaction to a benign infraction most cops would turn a blind eye to or at the very least react with nothing more than a warning. Despite all this, she still hasn’t been suspended.
This isn’t a case of “gotcha” journalism; an isolated case that gets blown out of proportion by left-leaning media aiming to crucify all symbols of authority. This is “gotcha” and “gotcha” and “gotcha” again. How many incidents have to take place before the police force acknowledges that this person has an anger management problem?
Most police officers are conscientious, decent, morally-driven upholders of the law. But careers that ultimately place you in a position of power also tend to attract people with slightly less ethical viewpoints; people with aggressive, authoritative tendencies, who get drunk on domination and the use of force.
Let’s face it; I don’t know what a cop’s job entails. I don’t know what it feels like to operate daily under the very real threat that something or someone could threaten my life. I don’t know how fidgety or trigger happy that knowledge might make me. That being said, it would be naïve of me to give all the benefit of the doubt to a police force who –despite repeated demands by the public- still lacks transparency in its actions, still displays clear signs of racial profiling, still conducts too many inquiries in the dark and insists on policing itself despite the credibility points it loses in the process.
Most police officers are conscientious, decent, morally-driven upholders of the law. But careers that ultimately place you in a position of power also tend to attract people with slightly less ethical viewpoints; people with aggressive, authoritative tendencies, who get drunk on domination and the use of force. That’s why we, the public they serve, must insist that complaints and allegations of any kind of misconduct be taken extremely seriously. And this is why we cannot afford to have internal affairs handling such allegations anymore.
The simple fact remains that it’s human nature to circle the wagons and to want to protect your own. The police should not be policing themselves, because it’s an outright conflict of interest! It’s counter-intuitive to expect cops to break their Code of Silence, built over years of fighting in the trenches together. How impartial can they really be? Why don’t we get politicians to count their own ballots while we’re at it?
The solution is to, either – just as has already been established in Ontario - create an independent civilian agency investigating such incidents, or ensure that Quebec’s police-ethics commissioner start monitoring police probes (as was suggested by The Gazette’s Henry Aubin years ago in his column).
Constable 728 is an affront and an embarrassment to all conscientious cops out there, and it’s vital that the police department take a strong stance against this type of behaviour. This officer doesn’t need to be relocated or suspended. She needs to be removed from the force, she needs help, and, ultimately, we need a police force that plays by the same rules we're asked to play by.