Thursday, May 19, 2011

Montreal Police Harass Entire Black Community

Yesterday I discussed racial profiling as a preface to this story which will examine the Montreal Police force's all-out organized assault on the city's Black community.

Sadly, the Montreal police have undertaken a well-organized and sophisticated program of harassment or 'rousting', in an ill-conceived attempt of control and to reduce the perceived elevated crime rate that plagues the Black community.
The tactic of 'rousting' is not new, it has been in the police arsenal as long as there has been organized crime.
It is a method whereby the police keep street gangs and mobsters off-balance by subjecting them to an extreme form harassment, based on enforcing the most minor of offences in the most draconian fashion, with the goal of making the targets' life as miserable as possible.

An example of rousting is inspecting a mob-controlled business, over and over again, looking for code infractions that could shut the establishment down.
Rousting is stopping a known criminal in his car for the proverbial broken tail light, failing to signal or some other minor infraction and then subjecting him to a lengthy search.
Rousting is the act of ticketing a known target for such minor offences that includes jaywalking, loitering or playing dice in public. The stop is then justification for a body search and a chance to hold the suspect while a verification is made in relation to outstanding warrants.

In short, 'rousting' is any legal device that justifies police stopping targeted individuals or groups, where the goal is not to enforce the law, but rather to harass the target.

All this is done by police to impose authority and to make criminals fearful of conducting business in the open.
If you're wondering, it's all quite legal and yes, it is effective. As long as a criminal knows that they may be stopped and searched at any moment, they tend to leave contraband and weapons off their person. It definitely crimps their style and it also impresses upon targets that the streets belong to the police, not the criminals.

Fredy and Dany Villanueva flash "Bloods'" gang signs
One police officer told me that it is a favourite practice to humiliate gang leaders in front of girlfriends and underlings and sometimes even the target's mother. In a hierarchical group like a street gang, this humiliation by the police is particularly effective in undermining gang authority.

An episode of 'rousting' can explain the infamous confrontation between police and the Villanueva brothers, in 2008, when a routine stop led to Fredy's death.
The police, who knew Dany as a serious gang member, used the minor infraction of playing dice in public, to do a stop and search. The pretext of the minor infraction was used as a justification to search him for drugs, guns or other contraband.
It's likely that Dany became furious at being rousted once again, it certainly wasn't the first time he had been stopped and searched on a flimsy excuse. When he lost his temper and approached police aggressively, a not so simple intervention over a tiny dice game escalated to gunfire and death.

Most of us don't have an objection to police harassing known criminals in this manner. Criminals expect it and deal with it as an occupational hazard.
By the way, while police would never admit it, the death of Fredy Villanueva during a routine rousting has actually had a salutary effect on other criminals who take note that it's dangerous to confront the police. Better to submit.

Now what happens when rousting is applied, not to criminals, but a specific community, is a completely different story. Criminals expect to be rousted, not law-abiding citizens.
I can only imagine  my rage if a police officer stopped me for something stupid like crossing a street in the middle of the block and then proceeded to ticket and search me while running my name for outstanding warrants. If it happened on more than one occasion, I'd really be pissed.

Do I exaggerate?
Just last night, the local CBC television station ran a news story whereby it reported that Black people were ticketed for jaywalking after a benefit concert for a slain Black Montreal rapper.

And so ça change, plus c'est la même chose

Why the Montreal police have decided to apply rousting methods to the Black community has never been explained, because of course, the police deny doing it.
But evidence is piled high to the contrary. There's hardly a black youth that hasn't been stopped for no good reason, regardless whether he's a criminal or an honour student.  Read this and this.

From thieves to high school teachers, from drug dealers to university graduates, nobody in the Black community is immune to being stopped searched, ticketed and arrested for no other reason than they are Black.

So what is the effect? What would you imagine?
Do the police naively assume that the Black community will become more law-abiding?
Perhaps the criminal elements in the Black community will, but what about the majority of innocents who are taught from a tender age that being Black means being targeted by the forces of order.

It's hard to quantify, but there has to be a huge negative effect. You cannot treat a segment of society unfairly and ask them to become good citizens.
How many blacks have given up on the straight and narrow, because of this harassment, is not known.

I'd like to tell you about an episode of FRONTLINE that I watched on PBS, having nothing to do with Blacks or racial profiling, but very apropos.

KILL/CAPTURE  discussed the efficacy of targeted killings and 'night raids' in Afghanistan and whether the tactic contributed to the lessening of violence.

The part that interested me was the description of 'Night Raids" a tactic by the American army  meant  to capture Taliban members hiding out in villages.
The army swoops down by helicopter in the middle of the night and rousts the whole village. Everyone is woken up, driven out of their homes in their night clothes and then subjected to a detailed and humiliating search. Anybody remotely suspicious is bundled into the waiting helicopter to be flown to headquarters for an interrogation.

If it doesn't sound so bad to you, apply the scenario to your street or apartment building and imagine the police banging on your door and forcing you and your family out of your bed at gunpoint. The whole neighbourhood stands around the street in pyjamas with soldiers pointing guns, for an hour or two. Meanwhile the soldiers are going through your house, room by room, searching every nook and cranny for whatever. Hmmm....

Of course the vast majority of the villagers are innocents and are furious at the imposition and humiliation.
The elders complain to the Americans that the Taliban treats them better and with more respect.
Some villagers are actually driven to actually join the Taliban!

In trying to win the war for the hearts and minds of the people, can this strategy of rousting possibly work?

The producers of the show concluded that rousting has a negative effect on security. For every Taliban member that is caught using rousting, more join the enemy ranks because of it!

Watch a small part of the show examining these type of raids and the effect. If you haven't got the eleven minutes to devote to the video, start at the 6:00 mark to view the sad legacy of rousting.

                                 Watch the full episode. See more FRONTLINE.

I think there is a lesson  to be drawn, even if we in Montreal are not in Afghanistan.
Rousting is counter-productive.

It's time for the police to extend an olive branch to the Black and minority communities of Montreal. Another track must be found to attack crime, one that doesn't terrorize innocent citizens.

Will it happen?
Sadly, probably not.


  1. Sadly, this rousting as you call it will solve NOTHING! In Toronto, there was a belligerent black crusader named Dudley Laws, who passed away a couple of months ago. See

    He was quite the in-your-face character when it came to meddlesome police, and he drew quite a bit of attention to himself, but good for him, he stood up to this rousting by the Toronto police.

    I think Montreal now needs this type of character, if someone is willing to step up. I think rousting is a self-fulfilling prophesy. If you treat innocent people like criminals, that is EXACTLY how they're going to behave; besides, it's a disgrace on the part of the police and it's a waste of the taxpayers' money.

    The time and energy devoted to this distasteful tactic could be better spent on pursuing real criminals. There are times I still refer to the SQ as Duplessis's Goon Squad. Not a positive attribute at all, but it's up to those who develop police policy to decide what reputation they want of their police. This ISN'T the best way to go, at least in my opinion.

  2. The male officer in the Villanueva case knew very well who he was and that he was not allowed by the court to be out of Repentigny (As in don't cross the river, a very physical borderline). Why did he get all violent ? Because he knew he was going back to jail and reacted in the worst matter possible. His deportation will hopefully be done soon.