Over 9,000 Montrealers are petitioning officials to reconsider the plan to give STM officers "police-like" "special constable powers." Since 2019, the STM has been working on issuing a special status to its officers that would allow them to make arrests, hand people over to the police, and have access to police databases. If the powers are granted, the STM says that its officers will be subject to the Police Act. Civilians would be able to submit complaints to the police ethics commissioner or to the Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes (BEI) "as needed."
As Montrealers demand an end to police brutality, the petitioners point out that "the STM also faces complaints of regularly targeting black and indigenous people of colour in their inspections."
The petition raises the concern that more police powers could lead to even more harassment and "invasions to our privacy and autonomy."
The petition points to an incident last year at Villa-Maria metro station when two STM officers pinned Juliano Gray, who is black, to the ground, and beat him with batons.
According to the STM, the officers followed procedure. The transit company alleged that Gray was "bothering other clients on the train and refusing to collaborate."
"Montreal residents should be entitled to use public transport without the fear of being harassed," the petition's author wrote.
Le conseil d’administration de la #STM a adopté une résolution ce soir afin que le directeur général accélère les d… https://t.co/c82AQRzwBI— STM (@STM)1554330746.0
The petition comes as protestors across the continent have demanded that cities defund police departments and strip officers of some of their powers.
In Montreal, another petition to make body cameras mandatory for SPVM officers has over 70,000 signatures.
"This petition has been created to bring transparency to citizens, law enforcement, and the courts onto the conduct of police conduct and brutality," that petition's author wrote.
Please sign this one! STM Board of Directors: Oppose STM Sûreté gaining 'police-like' special constable powers - S… https://t.co/u4KuL4r8Tw— soil gremlin (@soil gremlin)1591276628.0
The STM is proceeding with giving special constable powers to its transit officers, despite concerns.
In a press release, the STM says that it would not equip officers with firearms and that they would be subject to more accountability.
Other major Canadian cities such as Toronto and Calgary grant transit officers this special status.