Should Montreal Police get back in uniform?
Montreal Police have been donning their camouflage pants in protest since July of 2014 in an act of protest against the provincial Liberal government’s changes to their pension plan. In December of that year, Bill 3, the law that required public sector employees to pay more into their pension plan (in order to counterbalance a $4 billion deficit at the time) was passed.
This past March 27th, Quebec’s Public Security Minister Martin Coiteux announced plans to table a bill which would put an end to police wearing their military-like attire.
Along with camouflage pants they wore red caps and plastered stickers printed with ‘On a rien volé, nous’, ‘Contre la loi 3’ and ‘Libre Négo’ all over their police cars, as well as on some city buildings. This past January they were ordered by an arbitration tribunal to remove the stickers from their cars as well as the buildings, but the caps and camouflage pants remained – with brightly colored and plaid pants, as well as leopard-print leggings added to their attire.
Because our police are not legally allowed to strike, the Montreal Police Union has remained steadfast with their protest tactics. There are critics who blame the city for the ongoing problem, by not addressing the issue at hand and instead using legislation when things are not going their way.
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Others contend the integrity of the officers has been compromised and they have been losing respect from the very citizens they serve. Police have maintained the protests are a freedom of expression and more importantly it does not affect how they perform their duties – but the public’s growing discomfort with the tactics have many losing patience with the ‘costumes’. Add in the recent corruption scandals within the police force and it is no wonder the public’s credibility in them has been wavering.
People have mistaken police in their camouflage pants for bank robbers or worse, and their attire has also raised concerns for immigrants, especially for those who recently arrived here, escaping the horrors of terrorist attacks and dictatorships who might be frightened by the ‘military’ look.
Citizens and tourists have been confused, at times not being able to distinguish police officers from anyone else on the streets – and that can prove dangerous in an emergency situation.
Last July, a municipal court judge dismissed a $1,200 fine against a Laval man who claimed he wasn’t able to recognize the police officer after being pulled over for an infraction for speeding and dangerous driving. The officer was wearing camouflage pants and a yellow reflective vest – and he claimed he thought she was a school guard as she stepped on to the road. He slowed down and swerved to miss hitting her.
At the funeral of former premier Jacques Parizeau in June of 2015 some police officers wore their camouflage pants, creating a public outcry that the police showed no respect. After that, during the funeral of René Angélil in January of 2016 they put on their formal uniforms.
Response on social media to Minister Martin Coiteux’s announcement has been mixed. There are those who firmly support the police, many feeling they have no other way to show their frustrations and it doesn’t matter what they wear as long as they show up when needed. Some saying they like ‘the look’, or have posted comments such as; ‘it’s funky, I like it’, ‘they look tough and that’s how they should look’ and ‘cops risk their lives for us and are poorly paid, they should wear what they want’. Or in a less enlightened way, ‘I find they look hot in those pants’.
Others are not supportive at all with comments like ‘this bill should have been passed years ago, they look ridiculous and have lost my respect’, ‘if they are not happy, then just find another job’ and ‘they have decent benefits, their pension money comes from taxpayers so get back to work’. Some are concerned about what people think of our city and Montreal has become a place where tourists are scratching their heads wondering ‘who the clowns are in their strange colored pants with guns at their side’. A little disconcerting indeed.
The divide is there and how the police will react to the next move by the government in putting an end to their controversial protest remains to be seen. How do you feel about the form of pressure tactics our police are using? Do you agree or disagree with the government putting an end to the camo/colored pants?
Feature image: Montreal Police officers are shown on a street in Montreal, Thursday, August 7, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes