728 minutes of fame

Some cops think they’re above the laws they are charged with enforcing—that’s nothing new. But now it looks like the Montreal Police force (SPVM) thinks it’s above the unwritten laws of celebrity and fame.

Warhol said that everyone gets 15 minutes in the spotlight. And Stéfanie Trudeau, better known as Constable 728, used those up well before the Maple Spring went on its summer break. So why did she turn up again in the news mid-October?

Because the SPVM let her. They let a cop who got caught on video unloading pepper spray for no reason on peaceful protesters twice keep her job.

Despite the video spreading (over 600 000 views for a Quebec-centered story is local viral), they didn’t stick her behind a desk. They kept her in the field, patrolling the Plateau.

You’d think, at the very least, they would re-assign a cop, who clearly had issues with protesters, to a beat where there weren’t so many red squares among the citizens she was charged with protecting. With a whole island, that includes suburbs, quiet affluent neighbourhoods and working class areas where everyone is too busy working to protest, they threw her in with the artists and political activists.

Are the SPVM brass really surprised that she put some guy in a chokehold in his own house for merely holding the door open for a friend who happened to have an open beer? Are they really surprised that her report to her superior contained references to artists and red squares living upstairs whom she referred to as guitar picking rats?

They can’t be. But they will try and seem like they’re dealing with it. She’s been suspended. “Charges” against the dude she put in a chokehold and others there that night have now been dropped.

That’s it, the one bad apple in the force has been dealt with. All the abuses the force is accused of—the kettling, declaring protests illegal without any violence coming from the protesters, attacking student media—is now dealt with. It was 728’s fault and now she’s gone…we good now?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that the cops wanted something like this to happen and helped it along with bad decisions. I’m only implying it.

Remember the UC Davis security guard who became famous as the pepper spray cop? He spawned many a meme but did you ever hear of him doing anything since? No, because they got rid of him. Yes, 728’s fame came in the middle of a much bigger event, the Maple Spring, but the pepper spray cop hit his stride during Occupy, and he’s gone.

Yes, the Montreal Police Brotherhood is a powerful organization notorious for protecting its own, but the SPVM brass are dealing with 728 now regardless of what the union has to say—so it stands to reason they could have prevented what happened last week, too. Instead the SPVM chose not to, they chose to put her back in a place where she could repeat.

They risked increasing her 15 minutes and created circumstances where that outcome was more of a likelihood than a possibility. I wonder what they’ll try when her time in the spotlight is finally up.

* Images: la-rabia-del-pueblo.tumblr.com, tagtele.com

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