Gun squad arrests mostly Black Montrealers -- and many not for gun offences, prof finds

A unit created a year ago within the Montreal police was supposed to crack down on gun crime, but a Concordia professor says its track record show it’s doing anything but.

Professor Ted Rutland has written a new report about the arrests made by the 20-member anti-gun squad.

Many of the squad’s arrests so far were not for gun crimes at all, he found. Meanwhile three-quarters of the people arrested happen to be Black—leading Rutland to argue that the squad is a public relations exercise.

“In the fall…Montrealers were pressing the police to address racial profiling,” he said.

“And what did they do? They launch an operation that aggravates the very problems we criticized them for.”

Rutland is a supporter of the idea of defunding the police, meaning cutting drastically into the police force’s budget to distribute that money into other social services that could shore up public safety.

The squad’s work led to very few charges in gun crimes, which is little surprise, considering that few of its arrests were over gun offences.

“Very few people charged by the gun squad were charged with charges related to guns,” Rutland said. “The vast majority were charged with drugs.”

In a statement, Montreal police said it set up the squad "after a series of violent incidents involving firearms," and that the officers "always conduct their investigations and responses using proven methods, without discrimination and without racism."

The force said that the investigations the unit had begun were all sparked by "reports received from the public or from informants, and always on observable and verifiable facts."

The SPVM, it said, "conducts its investigations and operations with respect for the individual rights and freedoms of all, regardless of their real or perceived ethnocultural identity."

Since December 2019, it said the squad, which it has named "Quietude," has removed more than 30 guns from Montreal.

Alain Babineau, a former Mountie who now works at the group Centre for Research Action on Race Relations, says Montreal doesn’t have a lot of gun violence compared to Canada’s other major cities.

If a lot of arrests are not leading to charges, he said, that also suggests a potential “lack of evidence,” and says that Rutland’s work deserves a closer look to figure out exactly what’s going on at the squad.

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