Montreal Police shooting PR trouble – Post 2

August 15, 2008

(Post 1 on this topic is here)

The very short news conference of the Villanueva family this morning was interesting. The victim’s sister (Patricia Villanueva) makes an interesting spokesperson for the family: calm, strong yet obviously devastated by the tragic events. She doesn’t use police jargon and nothing about her looks rehearsed or polished – she doesn’t come across as an activist. She asks people to stay calm, thanks them for their support and only blames the work of the police officers when pressed by reporters.

She says she doesn’t know much about police procedure, but it seems to her that if the officers didn’t feel in control they should have called for backup, not reached for their gun. She won’t say if she trusts the investigation process, but when gently pressed she mentions that “to be impartial, it has to be done by different people, right?”

That’s good. That’s really very good.

If the Montreal police PR team doesn’t realize how much credibility and sympathy this woman has right now, they are headed for a PR disaster. Let’s see what happens now.


Montreal’s Police Department flacks in big trouble over police shooting

August 14, 2008

(The follow-up to this post is here)

Looks like the Montreal police service is in PR trouble… again. Last April, they were criticized for doing nothing during last April’s playoff riot. This time, the police force is coming under fire after police killed one teenager during a scuffle in a park.

Montreal’s police service has had image problems for as long as I can remember. Reporters have little sympathy for the force and it shows. Columnists refrain from commenting on the police officer’s actions (did the situation require the use of a firearm?), but go after the investigation process by the Sûreté du Québec, the provincial police force investigating the municipal one.

Henry Aubin, The Gazette:

The SQ has yet to interview the two Montreal police officers involved in the incident. That’s irresponsible. It gives officers the opportunity to meet and agree on a story. (…) I’ve written for years that Quebec needs an independent agency like Ontario’s, which has no ties to any police force, to investigate police killings.

La Presse’s columnist Patrick Lagacé gets one step further than Aubin – he gets quotes from the former leader of the Special Investigations Unit, plain-spoken André Marin:

Dans toute enquête criminelle compétente, on veut interviewer les témoins immédiatement après les faits ! C’est à ce moment que les témoignages sont les plus fiables, que la preuve est la plus fraîche. Pas une semaine après. (…) On ne peut pas avoir confiance en cette enquête.

La police ne peut pas enquêter sur la police. En Ontario, l’Unité des enquêtes spéciales est composée de civils. Il y a d’anciens policiers, oui, qui ne peuvent enquêter sur leurs employeurs. C’est une unité indépendante, dont le directeur, pas la Couronne, décide de porter des accusations ou non.

Marin adds that in the end, having an independent agency investigate police shootings allows for a more credible investigation. It’s the only way police officers can really have their names cleared, if indeed their actions were appropriate.

So anyway, this is Quebec and the cops investigate each other. Let’s observe the efforts of the Montreal Police’s flacks in the next few days, to see how they try to work around that credibility handicap. The victim’s family is having a news conference tomorrow…

UPDATE: No, Montreal police isn’t shooting at citizens any more than other urban police forces in the country. On the maclean’s blogs, Philippe Gohier got the numbers and did the math.

UPDATE 2: The Globe’s Gary Mason says British Columbia has the same policy oversight problem. My thanks to Megapundit for pointing that out.