Urban Quebecers Call for Changes in Police Misconduct Investigations

People who reside in Quebec’s major metropolitan areas want to modify the way investigations into police use of force are conducted, a new Angus Reid Public Opinion poll conducted in partnership with La Presse has found.

The online survey of a representative sample of 1,000 adult urban Quebecers also shows that more than half of respondents (58%) believe the police officers in their city are not adequately trained to safely deal with delicate situations such as that of Farshad Mohammadi, a homeless person who suffered from psychiatric problems and was killed by a police officer on Jan. 6 in Montreal.

Despite this observation, two thirds of urban Quebecers (67%) say they have a “great deal” or a “fair amount” of confidence in police officers, on par with the rating of judges (66%), lower than doctors (89%) and significantly higher than politicians (11%).

Police Investigations

Roughly half of urban Quebecers (48%) believe another police force should investigate when a civilian is killed by a police officer, while 33 per cent would prefer to launch a probe headed by civilians. However, when offered other alternatives, very few respondents (13%) support the status quo. In fact, two-in-five respondents (41%) would prefer to have a body comprised primarily of civilians who conduct investigations on the police, while one third (34%) endorse the concept of an oversight committee comprised of civilians who monitor the investigations, which are still conducted by police officers.

Urban Quebecers were asked to hazard a guess into how many of 339 internal investigations into police conduct have led to indictments against police. While most respondents believe that this has materialized in 35 occasions, the reality is that indictments have been filed only three times.

The main factors cited by urban Quebecers for the low proportion of indictments are that the police investigating the allegations mostly turned a blind eye to the possible negligent or bad practices of their colleagues (72%), that the investigations found most police officers were simply doing the best they could under difficult circumstances (66%) and that the police did not have the manpower to thoroughly investigate each case (51%). Fewer respondents suggest that most accusations against police were phony and exaggerated (41%).

Homelessness and Mental Illness

A majority of respondents (56%) believe the best way to deal with the current situation in Montreal is to increase the assistance available to homeless people, while 28 per cent would place those with mental illness in institutions for longer periods of time. Less than 10 per cent of urban Quebecers called for more training of existing police officers, or for increasing the number of police officers.

Full Report, Detailed Tables and Methodology (PDF)

Methodology: From January 11 to January 12, 2012, Angus Reid Public Opinion conducted an online survey among 1,000 randomly selected adults in Quebec’s major metropolitan areas who are Angus Reid Forum panellists. The margin of error—which measures sampling variability—is +/- 3.1%. The results have been statistically weighted according to the most current education, age, gender and region Census data to ensure a sample representative of the entire urban population of Quebec. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.

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