The curfew is an electric shock not only for the population, but also for the police. Since its application, the number of tickets issued for illegal gatherings in homes has exploded.
During the first week of the curfew, no less than 371 reports or tickets for gathering in a private residence were given by the various police forces in the province. This is more than double the previous weeks, which coincide with the holiday season.
It is in Montreal that the increase in these tickets is the most important. From December 21 to 27, the SPVM sleuths issued six tickets for illegal gatherings in homes. On New Year’s Day, fourteen Montrealers received tickets for meeting inside. Since it is forbidden to leave your home between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m., the Metropolitan police have sanctioned 123 offenders.
The SPVM contented itself with a terse response by email to explain this surge in contraventions: “Indeed, the application of the curfew brings new findings additional to those normally issued.”
The phenomenon does not spare the national capital. The Quebec City Police Department has distributed 21 tickets for indoor gatherings since the curfew was enforced, up from eight the previous week.
“We heard the call from the Ministry of Public Security and, indeed, we are no longer at the time of warnings, […] the tone has changed. Also, with the current state of the pandemic, we have reached the stage of issuing statements of offense, ”explains spokesperson Étienne Doyon.
Tuesday, François Legault argued that the curfew facilitates the work of the police to intervene with the recalcitrant.
No more repression
If the police are quicker on the trigger, it is because the curfew is a form of signal for the police, believes Patrick Taillon, professor of constitutional law at Laval University.
According to him, it is unlikely that there were more house gatherings in the last days than in the weeks around Christmas and New Years.
“If, for a week, there have been so many tickets for interventions in people’s homes, it clearly means that the police have heard a call from the government to the effect that the time is over. repression, more severity, more rigor, ”he said, in an interview with our Parliamentary Bureau.
Agents were probably doing a lot more prevention and education with citizens before the Legault government announced more severe containment.
Since it is now forbidden to leave your home from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m., a gathering in a house also appears much more serious not only in the eyes of the population, but also of the police, insists the constitutional expert.
“Those who wonder if the curfew is not a horse remedy, is not something that goes too far, will certainly be tempted to point out in these statistics that perhaps if the police had more early on exploited this ability to issue tickets rather than warnings, perhaps we would not have had to go to curfew, ”he slips.
Behind the scenes, police officers emphasize that the last months of the pandemic have not been easy. The Legault government is increasing the number of instructions and decrees, which are often far from clear and sometimes even contradictory. But the responsibility for applying them is “garrochée” in the courtyard of the police forces.
To explain the few tickets issued before the advent of the curfew, some even mention the phenomenon of depolicing orunderpolicing, a form of disengagement of some police officers who voluntarily reduce their actions and intervene less, especially for fear of reprisals on social networks.
A phenomenon that is still little documented in Quebec, but that the National Police Academy has been studying since 2018.
“It is a reaction of discouragement or disengagement of a police officer or group of police officers to a stormy situation, setbacks, adversity or disillusion. The main contexts associated with depolicing in Quebec seem to be the arrests of racialized people, the consequences of official surveillance and the media hype that can ensue as well as the trajectories of the profession of police officer ”, one can read in a brief submitted recently by the organization in the framework of the reflection on the green paper Quebec police reality.
Reports or statements of offense issued for assembly in a private residence by the various police forces in Quebec
- From December 21 to 27: 132
- From December 28 to January 3: 158
- January 4-10: 172
- January 11-17: 371