The Service de police de la Ville de Montreal (SPVM) caused a stir on social media on January 13, when at least three people accused the SPVM Instagram account of deleting comments questioning its treatment of Montreal's homeless population.
Beneath a photo of an SPVM officer with one of the police force's horses, Montrealer Sabrina Prosser pressed the SPVM on why a homeless Montrealer was reportedly issued a $1,550 ticket for breaking Quebec's COVID-19 curfew rules.
How dare they try to silence a genuine and non-aggressive question?
Prosser told MTL Blog she wanted to know what the SPVM was doing to rectify the situation with the city's homeless population during curfew hours.
But she said that a few minutes after posting, her comment was removed.
Prosser then posted a second comment, she said, and encouraged her friends and followers to continue asking the SPVM for details regarding the $1,550 ticket.
Prosser said her follow-up comment, as well as an additional third comment, were also deleted.
Unlike in Prosser's case, Dehm claimed the SPVM did not intervene in a follow-up comment she posted.
"I guess they realized everyone was spreading the word about what they were doing," she said.
A spokesperson for the SPVM told MTL Blog that its moderators are sometimes required to remove comments on its social media platforms — specifically, when they are off-topic or have been uploaded several times, as per its 'Netiquette' policy.
"The specialized teams of the SPVM [...] work for the well-being of vulnerable people, including those who find themselves in a situation of homelessness, at the time of enforcing curfew measures," the spokesperson said.
"Where possible, the police will also accompany people experiencing homelessness to the appropriate resources so that they can receive the help and support they need."
Prosser said the SPVM's actions contradict its "Netiquette" policy, as her first comment was just posted once and was respectful.
"They are effectively trying to sweep it under the rug, and as a taxpaying citizen, I have an absolute right to question whether or not the SPVM is doing their job properly," she said.
Other Montrealers joined the discussion, asking the SPVM to justify its actions of deleting Prosser's initial comment.
The SPVM — issuing a response in the comments section five days after Prosser began to question its social media management — referred another commenter, Tiger Tchakounté, to its 'Netiquette' policy.
Dehm called the SPVM's response an "excuse," saying that Prosser's initial comments were "neither rude nor vulgar."
Prosser told MTL Blog that she believes the SPVM still needs to be held accountable for its treatment of the city's homeless population.
"If [the SPVM] are going to have that budget, they better be open to criticism and guidance," she said.
"This is not a police state. This is not okay."
As of January 22, there were numerous comments in the thread for this photo questioning the SPVM's practice of ticketing homeless people, and criticizing the SPVM for allegedly deleting comments.