“I lived in this fiction that this could not happen in this country.”—Patrick Lagacé, La Presse columnist
Just as healthy immune systems with less and less to do in a hypoallergenic environment often turn on completely harmless things like cat dander and dust with a ferocity that threatens the health of the body, overstaffed police forces with less and less to do in a low-crime environment often turn on the citizenry with a ferocity that threatens the health of the body politic. Am I disgusted by the fact that the Montreal police were spying on La Presse columnist Patrick Lagacé? Of course. Every cop involved, as well as the judge, should be fired, tried, and jailed. But let’s not lose sight of the fact that this is merely a symptom of a deeper disease.
The root cause of our police problem is that we’ve got way too many police. Crime has been dropping for decades now. And yet we spend more and more each year on law enforcement. This is a dangerously unsustainable situation! Bloated bureaucracies invariably find creative ways to justify their existence. When that bureaucracy is the Department of Education, we get buildings filled with PhDs writing stupid reports no one reads. When that bureaucracy is the Montreal Police Department, we get a dangerously militarized police force that poses a clear and present danger to the freedom and safety of the citizenry.
Singling out the bad apples isn’t going to fix this problem. If we’re going to address the root cause of this problem, we’re going to have to reduce the size of the SPVM by 25% in the next five years. There are a number of easy ways to do this: (1) institute an immediate hiring freeze and make no new hires for the next five years; (2) let no new students into police technology programs for the next five years; (3) offer ageing officers attractive early retirement packages; (4) lay off as much as 10% of the existence police force (starting with those officers who have the most complaints against them).
If the Patrick Lagacé fiasco makes anything clear, it’s that the SPVM increasingly exists, not to serve and protect the citizens of Montreal, but to serve and protect itself.
—John Faithful Hamer, Twilight of the Idlers (2016)