“In Montreal, I felt like I was part of the furniture. Like we were a necessary evil and people weren’t any happier to see us,” says Alex (not his real name).
The young policeman, who requested anonymity and who now works for the Sûreté du Québec (SQ) in Estrie, resigned from the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal (SPVM) more than a year ago, after have spent four years.
He is not the only one. According to figures provided by the Brotherhood of Police Officers of Montreal, 45 police officers resigned from the SPVM in 2020, as well as 40 in 2021. And the year 2022 begins hard with 21 resignations during the first two months of the year.
“I advised management three weeks ago that I was very concerned about the number of resignations, because according to our information, the shootings will resume as soon as the weather starts to improve. And this summer, there will be vacations. If the resignations continue at the same rate as since the beginning of the year, it is clear that we will be in trouble, ”worries the president of the Fraternity, Yves Francœur.
“We are concerned, yes, but we are concerned about it,” says SPVM director Sylvain Caron.
“We are looking with human resources at what are the reasons for this phenomenon,” adds the head of the SPVM. “The causes can be multiple: the conditions in which we evolve here, in Montreal, personal conditions, a career reorientation, the pandemic, the specifics of a new generation, etc. This is a new phenomenon, which has appeared over the past two or three years. »
More than half of the 21 police officers who have resigned since the start of the year had between three and seven years of experience. Most of them would have found a position with the Sûreté du Québec or in other municipal police forces.
According to Yves Francœur, the salary, which is lower than in other police forces (especially at the lower levels), the greater pressure in Montreal “which means that police officers find themselves at the heart of a public trial in the media for the slightest event”, the debate on racial profiling, the policy of interpellation, the disengagement, the more numerous procedures and “the lack of political support” are among the factors which would explain the numerous recent resignations.
“What comes back the most is the complexity and intensity of the work in Montreal, the public trial for the slightest event and the lack of support at the political level,” summarizes Mr. Francœur.
Yes, what our police officers experience on a daily basis is not easy.
Sylvain Caron, director of the SPVM
“For two, three years, they have been criticized, filmed, regardless of the nature of their intervention, and are confronted with the popular courts that are social networks. It’s not easy to bear daily pressure when you’re doing your job,” adds Mr. Caron, who told The Press this week that the situation had reached “a tipping point”.
“Citizens must recognize the work of the police and trust them. If the police are affected in their work, it is the criminals who benefit,” laments Mr. Caron.
Like a dog in a game of bowling
“I spent some great years in Montreal, but today I’m happier,” says Alex, who now works in his native region. He endorses the factors listed by the president of his former union.
“Before, in Montreal, when the patrollers did not respond to calls, they were proactive, did small investigations, scratched and did prevention. Now, all that is expected of them is that they respond to calls, that they be at the service of citizens when they call them and want the police to be there. Citizens don’t want to see the police in their neighborhood if they don’t call them. People are rarely happy to see the police in prevention. There were lots of problems in the sectors and we weren’t able to provide”, testifies the young patroller.
“I thought it was getting very political in Montreal. I felt that I was working for the City and not for my bosses, and that it was to the leaders of the City that I had to answer,” says Alex, who also claims to have felt a lot of frustration because of budgetary considerations at the SPVM. and the fact that the salary in Montreal is the “laughing stock” of the police community.
Lack of staff
The SPVM wants to be reassuring: if 21 police officers resigned during the first two months of the year, we note that 10 arrived from other police forces. Since 2016, about fifty police officers, who had started their hiring process with the SPVM, left, but later returned.
Nearly 220 new police officers are to be hired at the SPVM this year.
Part of the hiring planned for the fall would have been brought forward to the spring, to compensate, as summer approaches, part of the resignations in January and February.
But according to management and the Brotherhood, there is a shortage of 270 police officers in the regular SPVM workforce to meet the level of service provided for in the Police Act.
This is not to mention that each year, approximately 250 police officers do not work at the SPVM due to parental leave, sick leave or loans of service to other police forces.
In addition, about 160 more are retiring each year, these days.
The cohort of the École nationale de police du Québec scheduled for January has been canceled, and 612 graduate police candidates will graduate for the year 2021-2022.
Competition between police forces is strong and they will compete to attract candidates to their ranks.
Yves Francœur believes that resignations should be one of the priorities of the next head of the SPVM.
Stop the bleeding
He hopes that the bleeding will stop and that the vacancies following the resignations will be quickly filled, to prevent the employer from abusing compulsory overtime or that police officers are victims of professional burnout and find themselves on sick leave. .
“We are preparing negotiations for the renewal of the collective agreement and one of the demands of the members is to prohibit compulsory overtime, I have never seen that,” said Yves Francœur, president of the Fraternity for 16 years.
But Alex says former colleagues still in Montreal are asking him about his new life. He says that SPVM police officers with 20 years of seniority told him that they would go to the SQ if they did not have to start over at the bottom of the ladder.
For two years, it has been a revolving door, the SPVM. It is however a very nice organization. I’m proud to have worked there and I will always have a part of my heart in Montreal, but in the long run it was getting exhausting. I didn’t have little butterflies to serve the population, because I felt that we were being made fun of.
Alex, former SPVM police officer now at the SQ
Although the director of the SPVM recognizes that the current situation is not easy, he enthusiastically invites new recruits to join the ranks of his organization.
“The SPVM is a great organization. Montreal is full of beautiful neighborhoods where it is pleasant to work. It’s a service filled with committed people and where there are a multitude of possibilities,” concludes Sylvain Caron.
To reach Daniel Renaud, dial 514 285-7000, ext. 4918, write to [email protected] or write to the postal address of The Press.