STM looking to give more authority to metro cops

The Société de Transport de Montréal (STM) voted last night to seek more police-like powers for its inspectors — a move critics fear could lead to the eventual arming of the metro patrol officers.

“Is their job to serve the public or is it a police force?” asked Marvin Rotrand, city councillor for the Cote-des-Neiges-NDG district of Snowdon, who until recently sat on the STM board.

“The metro is safe, and it doesn’t require more force and more visibility of an additional police force,” he said.

If the STM gets its way, its inspectors will be given the rank of special constable, allowing them access to police databases, and giving them the authority to make arrests.

“If they acquire new status, they become peace officers,” said Fo Niemi, Executive Director of the Centre for Research Action on Race Relations (CRARR).

“They’ll have the right to arrest on reasonable and probably grounds, whereas if you don’t have the peace officers, they only have the right to arrest when they see somebody committing an offence,” he said.

The new status would also give STM officers the right to carry weapons like firearms, tasers, and pepper spray, according to Rotrand.

The STM denies it plans on arming its officers.

The announcement comes on the heels of a public uproar over a video that went viral, showing two STM inspectors in a violent altercation with a man on the Villa Maria metro platform, last month.

The video shows the two officers repeatedly striking the man, Juliano Gray, 21, in the legs and body with their batons while he lays on his back.

“After what happened, after the video, that should not be the solution,” said one metro-rider name Rima. “They should be reprimanded, not given more power.”

“It’s not going to help,” added another rider named Nas. “They already used excessive force, so giving them more weapons isn’t going to make it better.

In addition to the new powers, the special constable status would also mean more training and a higher level of accountability.

Incidents like the one that happened at Villa Maria would be subject to investigation by the independent police watchdog (BEI).

“The Villa Maria incident has precipitated, clearly, their effort to convince the public that this is a good thing, because, well, these guys now will no longer be judged behind closed doors with no witnesses being present,” Rotrand said.​