23 avril 2012

TLMEP Interview with Marc Parent - April 22

Marc Parent, chief of police for the city of Montreal.

The number of protests certainly has increased in the past few months. Indeed, confirms Parent, there have been 160 student demonstrations since January of this year. It asks for a lot of vigilance on the police’s behalf, but they are trained and equipped for it.

How well trained? Guy A. plays clips of police strong-arming, including a protester being wrestled to the ground, policemen punching their way through a human chain of protesters, and using of pepper spray. Do they use a judicious amount of force?

Parent explains that the police department is responsible for upholding the right to free speech and assembly, but they are also responsible for seeing that demonstrations unfold safely and peacefully. They oversee the events (on est là pour encadrer les manifestations), and they have to intercede at time when violations are committed.

Only when public safety is threatened. They progressively announce their intentions to disperse the crowd, if for example they are blocking a building and holding people captive. Police are trained to use a minimal amount of force.

Do the police intimidate protesters? The beating of batons on shields and advancing in formation is not a form of intimidation but rather an announcement of police’s intentions, that they want the crowd to disperse. M. Parent concedes that the police force is not perfect (on a pas un bulletin de 100%). There are times where they haven’t made the best solution, but explains that these are decisions that are taken in the heat of the moment.

Turcotte suggests the police is not at war with today’s youth. Quite the opposite, says Parent, they try to work with them and oversee their protests (he repeats the word encadrer). That being said, he has found in the past two weeks, there have been a radicalization  of the movement (casseurs, agitateurs): including tactics as unleashing smoke bombs in the metro, bricks on the metro tracks, break-ins into government offices, use of pyrotechnic devices…

Guy A. reminds of that one protest is more delicate than all the others, the March 15 annual protest against police brutality. This year there were 226 arrests. Parent says this protest has been a problem for the past fifteen years. He feels there’s a legitimate message in the movement, but like in others, like the anti-capitalism movement, there is a radical element that infiltrates, causes problems, and the message is lost.

Two La Presse journalists were arrested and their material confiscated during the vandalizing (saccage) of the ministry of education’s offices. In this case, regrettably, the police intervened as the last was being broken and they arrested everyone on the spot, including the journalists. They were released not an hour later. Parent believes journalists are partners of public safety. One of the journalists arrested has been reporting on the protests since the beginning and there hadn’t been any problems before or since, and the arrest was not well handled. Since then, there have been discussions with La Presse management and the Qc federation of journalists. Unfortunately, in the fog of war, it’s not always clear who is a journalist. Not all journalists want to clearly identify themselves.

Mole Yan Davidson tried to sell a list of informants to the mafia. How did this simple police officer get access to this info? There’s a limited set of officers have that access; no one doubted his integrity until it was found out. The availability and security of sensitive information has been in. Officers take discretions like this very seriously among themselves.  M. Davidson committed suicide.  Guy A. infers that it could have been an inside job: did he commit suicide, or was he suicided? Parent confirms it was definitely a suicide.

Inquiry into police officers releasing confidential information. Journalists question the real intention of the inquiry and feel it is meant to intimidate them. It is normal for journalists to speak to the police, but police must have a certain discretion. When confidential information is transgressed.

Mario Hamel shot last year, or Freddy Villanueva has undermined the credibility of the SPVM. Are you aware? Not a single officer wakes up waking to kill an innocent. There are 33,000 calls of people in mental distress, which is related to the issue of vagrance. When problems aren’t resolved with health services and street help, it falls on the police. And when drugs are involved, their behavior worsens. Thus why they watch synthetic drugs, such as speed and ecstasy; it’s a growing problem.

Police is in Parent’s blood. His father was a cop, and one of his son’s is considering it in his future. He was hired as chief of police year ago was hired, to the cheer of the police corps.

The topic of corruption is being put aside for the interview later with reporters Alain Gravel and Fabrice de Pierrebourg.

Parent produces a pair of gloves. A policeman’s out-reach initiative at Louis-Joseph Papineau High school given drop-outs and youth with other problems an outlet through the discipline Olympic boxing. Parent offers Turcotte and Guy A. boxing gloves and invitations to the upcoming gala.

Turcotte counters, first with a jet of “pepper spray”, but then with his traditional card: I'm pleased to have met you. Next time I get stopped, I can say: Hey, I know your boss, okay? Get back in your car." (Heureux de vous avoir rencontré. La prochaine fois qu’on m’arrete, je pourrai leur dire: <<Hé! Je connais votre boss, oké? Retourne dans ton char.>>)

In a surprising reversal, Parent counter-counters with a card of his own: he invites Turcotte to experience a night in a patrol with police officers, or Parent himself! (Je vous invite à vivre une experience unique: une nuit à Montréal en auto-patrouille avec nos policiers ou en ma compagnie.)

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