Montreal police budget

Killer cops will get off, again

Alain Magloire was shot dead by Montreal police on Monday, the third such incident in three years. And once again, the shooter will be exonerated.

MTL police shooting (600x337)

The scene of the crime

A Montreal police officer corners a violent, knife-wielding thug who has climbed up a fire escape. Seeing only one way to escape, the bad guy leaps at the officer from above and is shot. A little while later, the cop sits down with a Surêté du Québec investigator and quickly gets the impression he’s about to become a sacrificial lamb on the altar of police public relations.

Of course it’s fiction. Literally. That’s a key arc of the opening episode of 19-2, a Bravo police drama that premiered last Wednesday. Unlike the real world, we get to see the event unfold in front of us. Our omniscient viewpoint allows us to know with certainty that the wounded scumbag is lying when he says he was unarmed and only fell after being shot by Const. Ben Chartier.

Even the real-life members of the Collectif opposé à la brutalité policière would have to empathize with the fictional cop in this case.

Quebec police forces have reacted positively to the series (the original Radio-Canada version has already aired for two seasons) because it gives some insight into what they face on the street. But as for representing what they face in the investigation of a police-involved shooting, it’s pretty much fiction all the way.


Montreal police don’t wear cameras (yet), so when seven police officers surrounded mentally ill Alain Magloire on Monday, our insight into why the hammer-wielding itinerant was shot dead is sketchy at best. According to La Presse’s David Santerre, police sources told him that one of the cops slipped and fell. When Magloire started towards her, her partner shot him three or four times in the chest.

One civilian witness who watched from her office window told Santerre that she didn’t think Magloire was advancing toward police. Another witness was also perplexed about why police fired, but said Magloire yelled at the officers to “tirez-moi dessus” several times. Intentional suicide-by-cop, or the irrational ramblings of a man in the midst of a severe mental breakdown? We’ll never know for sure, because the man who shouted those words is dead.

A 42-year-old father of two — a “brilliant” man with a master’s degree in biochemistry, a kind and gentle man according to those who knew him, but one whose recent mental breakdown pushed him onto the cold streets of Montreal — is dead.

The third mentally ill itinerant in the last three years to be killed by Montreal police.


In the fictional world, those seven officers would have been immediately separated and questioned individually about their version of events. In the real world, they were transported to hospital to be treated for shock. And if this case follows the pattern we’ve seen in previous shootings, there will be little or no effort to prevent them from sharing their version of the shooting with each other or with their fellow cops. Indeed, we know from Santerre’s use of “police sources” that this has already happened.

The Parti Québécois government moved to address the problem of police investigating police last spring, adopting a law that creates a civilian-controlled Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes to investigate police operations that result in death or serious injury. But the PQ also adopted a go-slow approach to setting up this agency, so, close to a year later, it still exists only on paper.

That means, once again, police are investigating police and the public will learn little about the case except the conclusion, which you can be certain will exonerate the officers of any wrongful actions. It’s quite possible that clearing the officers will be the right finding, but the conclusion will always be in doubt when it’s the only kind of outcome these investigations ever produce.


People who want a transparent and thorough investigation of police killings aren’t cop haters. They know that police officers are as human as the rest of us, capable of both courage and cowardice, compassion and callousness, caution and carelessness. They know that cops don’t always cover for other cops—the Blue Wall has often been breached in Quebec, and the recent arrests of prominent SQ and Montreal police officers provide ample evidence that the uniform is not a get-out-of-jail-free card.

All we want is the truth. But as long as officers involved in such incidents are treated like victims rather than potential suspects, we will never be sure if the story we’re told is fact or a convenient fiction. ■
Peter Wheeland is a Montreal journalist and stand-up comic. His sardonic observations about the city and province appear every Wednesday. Follow him on Twitter, or find out about his upcoming stand-up performances here.

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