Black Montrealers say police reform won't work unless racial profiling is 'tied to sanctions'
MONTREAL -- After waiting for months for a much-vaunted new policy around police street checks, Black Montrealers say they’re underwhelmed.
“I don't see any change,” said Kenrick McRae, whose racial profiling case went to the Montreal police’s ethics committee last year.
The new street check policy was unveiled Wednesday morning. It requires officers to pull people over only when there are “observable facts” that justify doing so.
Once they’ve pulled a person over, officers will need to inform citizens what motives led to the stop.
McRae was pulled over for a broken light—which turned out not to be broken—in 2017. He was then detained in what an ethics report later found to be an illegal arrest. The ethics committee found two officers guilty of misconduct and abuse of power.
McRae told CTV news that without a new, solid accountability system, the policy is just words on paper.
The Centre for Research Action on Race Relations agreed the new policy won’t stop experiences like McRae’s from happening again.
“There has to be an early warning system internally to detect police officers that will undoubtedly try to go around this policy, because that's what police officers do,” said Alain Babineau, a former Mountie who works with the centre.
"It has to be tied to sanctions if you have repeat offenders,” he said. “Serial profilers within your ranks, you’ve got to be able to fire them.”
McRae said he was hoping the new policy would force Montreal police to wear body cameras, starting immediately.
“This is our only weapon,” he said, holding up his phone. “The camera.”
“They did not come up with a policy of body cams,” he said. “Where's the accountability?”
A newly formed Montreal coalition aiming to defund the police argues that the new policy doesn’t solve the problem of biases within the force, or its culture.
They’d rather see some police funding reallocated to groups with specialized training, like social workers. They also want to meet with Montreal’s police chief.
“There is a problem and we have the solution,” said lawyer Marie-Livia Beaugé.
“We have 10 demands…that will drastically help to change that culture,” she said.
So if “this time, for real, he wants to talk and change things, then he should contact the coalition of defunding the police.”
Other missing points from the new policy included its weak stipulations for data collection, critics argued, and the fact that police barely consulted with minority groups while writing it.
There seems to be some satisfaction coming for those who want body cams, however, as last month Mayor Valérie Plante announced that Montreal police will soon be wearing them.