Editorial: A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Graphic Nadine Abdellatif

Fady Dagher was selected to be Montreal’s police chief on Nov. 23. Currently acting as Longueuil’s police chief, Dagher was chosen by a committee of local politicians for his so-called community-based approach to policing.

One of Dagher’s tactics while he worked on the South Shore was to create an immersion program: his officers would spend time off-duty in the communities they would soon be policing. The purpose of such a program was to let officers learn about the community’s social and mental health needs.

In his announcement speech, Dagher admitted to the SPVM’s repeated failures, especially towards communities of colour and other marginalized groups. He remained firm in his position that this deeply-rooted issue could be fixed by hiring a more diverse pool of officers or doubling down on an immersion program like Longueuil’s.`

How does Dagher plan to put his alleged community-based model into place? With more money from the city, of course. Not even a week after Dagher’s announcement, Montreal unveiled its policing budget for 2023. Cops will get to toy around with $787 million in funding, representing an increase of nearly nine per cent compared to this year’s budget.

The state of policing in Quebec is more than dire. Currently, the provincial government is doing everything it can to appeal a decision made by a Superior Court judge outlawing vehicle stops without cause due to racial profiling. 

Defending stops without cause, Quebec Minister of Public Security François Bonnardel challenged the judge’s claims that racial profiling is a problem in Quebec, saying "we consider it unjustified to abolish a tool that is so important to police services." 

People of colour are routinely targeted by the police in Quebec, especially in Montreal. Data collected by the City of Montreal highlights how dangerous the situation is. Black people are four times more likely to be stopped by police than white people. The number jumps to five times more for Indigenous people in the city.

How can community policing salvage the remnants of a city whose communities have been ravaged by state-sponsored white supremacist violence? The SPVM has been one of the greatest hindrances to social cohesion in Montreal. For Dagher to believe an itsy-bitsy bit of training can fix this chasm is ludicrous.

Would community policing have saved the dozens of people who have been gunned down by police officers without accountability? Would an officer with a few extra days of community training not have killed Pierre Coriolan, Nicholas Gibbs, or Ronny Kay?

Dagher even admitted that around 80 per cent of 911 calls made in Longueuil during his tenure were surrounding social and mental health situations. Why the fuck are we sending cops to deal with people in a mental health crisis?

If our governments care about public safety, they need to defund the police and invest in social work, mental health and the social safety nets. How many more innocent people need to be killed before they get adequate support? 

There is no such thing as community policing as long as this never-ending system of violence continues being funded and upheld by politicians and lobbyists. We cannot keep dumping money into a system that has failed time and time again—it is rotten to its core.

This article originally appeared in Volume 43, Issue 8, published December 6, 2022.