Editorial: SPVM shows once again it cannot be trusted

Graphic Carl Bindman

For six nights, Mamadi III Fara Camara was held in jail, accused of a crime he did not commit. On Jan. 28, Camara had just been ticketed by SPVM officer Sanjay Vig when Vig was allegedly attacked, disarmed, and shot at while returning to his patrol car.

In a whirlwind week, Camara was wrongfully arrested at his home and detained on charges of attempted murder. On Feb. 3, he was cleared of all charges, before finally receiving an apology from the chief of police on Friday evening, Feb. 5.

On top of the trauma of incarceration, Camara was also injured during his arrest, and his house was ransacked by the police during a search following his arrest.

Even after the exoneration, police have little to say about how they got it so wrong. Camara was accused of shooting at Vig, yet they didn’t find any gunpowder on him. Traffic camera footage established the presence of a third person at the scene, which the police missed when they first looked. Camara even called 911 about the incident himself.

The police claim they are sorry. They say it was a mistake. Would they have made the same mistake if Camara was white? Mistakes happen, but when an organization like the SPVM makes “mistakes” towards Black people at such a disproportionate rate, their claims that racial profiling did not occur ring hollow.

The institutional racism of the SPVM is a known fact. Calls for an inquiry into whether the colour of Camara’s skin played a role in the violations of his rights are a waste of everyone’s time. We know the police department is racist, and we know they will face no consequences under our current system.

Beyond being another case of police misconduct, the Camara case highlights the problem of an opaque police service and a media quick to print all its claims. For nearly a week, Camara’s name was associated with attempted murder, with very little to back up the grave accusation. 

Despite an overwhelming lack of evidence against him, the information shared by police made him look guilty. The careless parroting of police statements by the media contributed to tarnishing his name. What was rarely reported on, however, was the history of misconduct by the attacked officer who accused Camara.

No Borders Media collected in a Facebook post past incidents involving Vig, adding that he has a reputation in Parc-Extension for being an abusive cop. He allegedly made homophobic comments towards a man during a traffic stop in 2018. Vig was also sanctioned for breaching the police ethics code during a traffic stop in 2012.

When it comes to such recent cases, conclusions can’t be drawn hastily. Police investigation is ongoing, and inquiries could be made into the errors that led to Camara’s unjust arrest. Yet, when you consider the impunity of both the involved officer and the SPVM as a whole, it’s hard to imagine any substantive justice.  Still, we must fight so those responsible are held accountable.

Such blatant failure by the SPVM highlights the necessity of police abolition. A narrow look at this case reveals a lack of transparency, but when you consider the long history of the Montreal police, it’s hard to see it as anything but an irredeemable institution that does more harm than good.