The Mon­treal po­lice force has a ra­cial pro­fil­ing prob­lem

The McGill Daily - - Editorial -

Con­tent warn­ing: anti-black­ness, po­lice bru­tal­ity

On March 12, Ken­drick Mcrae, a Black man, was stopped by a Mon­treal po­lice of­fi­cer while driv­ing a Mercedes and asked for his li­cense and reg­is­tra­tion. Ac­cord­ing to Mcrae, af­ter check­ing his doc­u­ments, the of­fi­cer told Mcrae that “the lights above his li­cense plate” weren’t work­ing. Mcrae demon­strated that the lights were func­tion­ing and be­gan record­ing ev­i­dence of the al­ter­ca­tion with a cam­era. Po­lice then ar­rested him for “dis­tur­bance,” hand­cuffed him, de­tained him in the back of a po­lice car, and deleted the recorded ev­i­dence. This wasn’t the first time Mcrae was racially pro­filed; in fact, he had pur­chased the cam­era to “pro­tect him­self from the po­lice.” There are end­less cases in­volv­ing non-black po­lice of­fi­cers ha­rass­ing Black men in Mon­treal with­out jus­ti­fi­ca­tion, re­veal­ing how the Ser­vice de po­lice de la Ville de Mon­tréal (SPVM) – which is 88.7 per cent white – makes de­ci­sions based on Black ra­cial stereo­types. The en­demic na­ture of ra­cial pro­fil­ing within the SPVM, and the long­stand­ing dif­fi­culty mit­i­gat­ing it, is em­blem­atic of the SPVM’S abuse of power in polic­ing racial­ized bod­ies. It’s im­per­a­tive that we ad­vo­cate for jus­tice and com­pen­sa­tion for Mcrae, as well as cri­tique prac­tices within the SPVM and the ju­di­cial process.

Mon­treal has seen a par­tic­u­larly high num­ber of ra­cial pro­fil­ing cases. Be­tween 2001 and 2007 in the Mon­treal North bor­ough (a com­mu­nity which is largely racial­ized), iden­ti­fi­ca­tion checks con­ducted by po­lice of­fi­cers in­creased by 126 per cent and pre­dom­i­nantly af­fected Black men. For in­stance, in 2011, Vic­tor Whyte was vi­o­lently beaten by mul­ti­ple of­fi­cers af­ter be­ing ac­cused of get­ting on a city bus with­out pay­ing. At the time, Whyte filed a com­plaint with the Que­bec Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion (CDPDJ) about this in­jus­tice. Af­ter six years, he has not yet re­ceived any com­pen­sa­tion; the CDPDJ has been said to have a “cul­ture of de­lay.” The CDPDJ, which in­cludes no com­mis­sion­ers who are peo­ple of colour (POC), has also been ac­cused of ap­a­thy to­ward sys­temic racism. Within the com­mis­sion, re­ports of ra­cial pro­fil­ing of­ten take five to seven years to be ad­dressed, and are of­ten dis­missed due to “in­suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence. This “cul­ture of de­lay” is ex­ac­er­bated by the SPVM’S gen­eral lack of ac­count­abil­ity, and their ten­dency to deny ac­cu­sa­tions made against them – as ev­i­denced by their re­fusal to in­ves­ti­gate Mcrae’s case.

In March 2016, Que­bec’s na­tional po­lice school dis­cussed strate­gies to im­prove the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of racial­ized peo­ple within their stu­dent body by reach­ing out to CEGEP stu­dents. When this strat­egy failed to pro­duce sig­nif­i­cant re­sults, the school’s di­rec­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions, Pierre Saint-an­toine, told the CBC that they had “lit­tle in­flu­ence” over their ap­pli­cants, ef­fec­tively dodg­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity. What Saint-an­toine missed, how­ever, is the dif­fer­ing per­cep­tions of the po­lice force held by white peo­ple and POC.

Mcrae de­serves an apol­ogy and com­pen­sa­tion, but that won’t end ra­cial pro­fil­ing. While the po­lice’s band-aid so­lu­tion of hir­ing more POC may seem to solve the is­sue, it does not ad­dress the sys­temic racism which is at the root of ra­cial pro­fil­ing. Rather, the SPVM and any re­form ini­tia­tive should take into ac­count the sys­temic racism that per­vades the po­lice force.

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