We have been mandated by a coalition of 30 community groups to demand the purchase of body cameras for the Montreal police force. (SPVM).
Last year faced with the continued incomprehensible refusal by the Montreal administration to follow the lead of other big city police departments and acquire body cameras, four Borough Councils adopted motions asking for a rapid and permanent roll out of these important tools.
In response, the administration of Mayor Valérie Plante said it would to re-examine its past position which was an unequivocal refusal to obtain body cameras. Yet as we enter 2021, nothing has happened and there is still no plan on the horizon.
Most big city police departments across North America have committed to body cameras. Montreal is in a distinct minority of cities that have not. Body cameras have become a normal tool in the day-to-day work of police departments and are essential in building public trust in police - community relations. Every police officer in New York City is equipped with a body camera and Toronto is moving in the same direction.
For that reason, we are demanding that the city administration release a plan to equip the entire police force with body cameras. We reject the notion of another pilot project and believe Montrealers are ready for a decisive decision in this regard.
However, we see body cameras as only one element in building a modern, progressive and community-based police force. Accordingly, we have proposed three actions that Montreal needs to the following:
• that a force wide body camera program equipping all officers rather than another pilot project begin within the next six months
• that a Race Based Data Collection Policy be an essential element of the eventual new street check policy.
• that an annual reporting mechanism be created that allows City Council and the general public to assess whether systemic bias is a factor in the interactions of the SPVM with minorities.
In the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the Black Lives Matter movement, a public debate engulfed much of North America in 2020 with demands for reforms that assure the public that policing is professional and will treat every citizen in an equal and colour-blind manner.
Over the past year Montrealers have marched in the streets demanding changes that assure everyone that our police force is a model that others will want to emulate. Montrealers want to eradicate bias and profiling from our police department and they want an effective community policing strategy as the model for the delivery of public security services in our city.
Toronto recently adopted an 81-point plan to create such a community-based model. Toronto is already beginning to experiment with de-escalation rather than the use of force and spinning off certain types of interventions to civilians. Here in Montreal the Plante administration has stonewalled using its majority at City Council to delay much needed change.
Many important motions to reform police practices were brought to Montreal City Council in 2020 but were simply shunted to the Public Security Commission by the Plante administration for study. That allows the Mayor to claim there is action while nothing much actually happens.
In 2021, we urge Montrealers to support our demands for change. Let's start with body cameras for officers, an effective tool that has led to better policing and improved police - community relations. We invite Montrealers to support our efforts aimed at a positive transformation of our city's public security model.
Luis Miranda, Mayor Anjou
Marvin Rotrand, City Councillor, Snowdon
Andrée Hénault, City Councillor, Anjou