Bystanders taping arrests improves policing, say Montreal cops
MONTREAL -- Videos of violent arrests have repeatedly gone viral. Now, Montreal police are saying they're also helping improve policing.
“We always taught our police officers to do it like they were filmed in every case,” said SPVM spokesperson Jean-Pierre Brabant. “It makes their job more professional and, at the same time, it gets more information if any cases are going wrong. They shouldn't change the way they are going to act or intervene with a person.”
Brabant warned that while capturing video of officers is legal, those who do so must stay a safe distance away and that people who intervene could face arrest.
“We need to re-affirm once again a citizen's freedom and right to film a police intervention and also not be told not to film because that could be a violation of the right of freedom of expression,” said Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations director Fo Niemi.
Last spring, Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante promised the city's police would adopt body cameras as soon as possible.
Numerous SPVM arrests have been caught on camera. In September, Kyng Rose came across police arresting a Black man in Montreal's Gay Village and began streaming on Facebook.
Rose said the behaviour of the officers changed completely when they started filming.
“When I went live, they stopped kneeling on his back, they all went to their cars to grab masks and stuff, because they knew they were being filmed,” said Rose.
This week, the Quebec Human Rights Commission ruled in favour of Pradel Content, who was followed and arrested by police in 2017. Officers deleted a video he shot on his cell phone, but a gas station surveillance camera captured the arrest, showing discrepancies with what police reported.
Officers and the city were told to pay Content $24,000 in damages.
“If I did not have my proof to prove his lies, I would have problems,” said Content. “Now he's the one that has problems because he lied.”
Rose encouraged Montrealers who come across an arrest to follow their example.
“I think it's super important whenever you see police somewhere harassing Black people, it doesn't matter what those people did, just document everything,” they said. “Because it's the police, not the judge, jury and executioner. They don't get to decide who lives and who doesn't.”