Montreal cop recorded threatening to tie homeless man to a pole

The actions of a Montreal police officer caught on camera are making for some bad publicity after the unidentified cop was recorded apparently threatening to string up a homeless panhandler on the coldest day of the year.

A video posted to YouTube shows an outdoor standoff between the officer and a panhandler in shorts and a t-shirt on Thursday, when temperatures in Montreal dipped as low as -30 C.

According to the person who posted the video, and the Montreal Gazette, the officer threatened to tie the man to a pole.

“I’ve told you that if I receive another 911 call about you, I will tie you to a pole for an hour," the Gazette reports the officers saying in French. “I swear — look into my eyes — I swear I’ll tie you to a pole for an hour.”

[ Related: Deep freeze continues in eastern and central Canada ]

The incident elicited immediate backlash online and from Mayor Denis Coderre, who called the comments unacceptable. Police Montréal has also confirmed they are looking into the video and say the comments were inappropriate.

Certainly there is a back story that has not been captured in the 50-second video. It seems police had been contacted about the actions of this particular panhandler in the past. According to a tweet posted by Codere, police had been called four times due to the man's aggressive behaviour. They offered to move the man to a warming centre, but he refused.

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This is just the latest headache for a Canadian police force caused by a connected public ready and willing to record interactions. It is just the latest case of little brother turning the lens on authority.

Earlier this year, the shooting death of Sammy Yatim while on board a streetcar in downtown Toronto garnered mass attention due in part to the wide availability of graphic video of the incident. A Toronto police officer has been charged with second-degree murder.

That was followed by the recording of a suspect in Victoria, B.C., being Tasered by police twice in the middle of the street. And there have been other cases; most notably, video of police action during the Toronto G20 Summit resulted in the conviction of one officer and the recording of the death-by-Taser of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski at the Vancouver airport in 2007 launched a massive inquiry.

There is no problem with citizens turning the cameras on authority. In fact, that’s the way it should be. The problems only come when we start to think that such moments of disgrace are indications of how officers routinely act. There are surely bad eggs, and others simply caught at their worst moments.

And while that is not excusable, it is also not an indication that every officer, everywhere, is cruel and abusive all of the time.

At moments like this, it is best to remember this photo, which spread through social media, of a Toronto officer stopping to tie the shoe of an elderly man outside the baseball stadium.

Or remember this more recent case of an Hamilton officer caught on video, who was celebrated for keeping his cool, handling a tough arrest well and dealing with an irate camera-wielding citizen with class and professionalism.

It's important to remember that not all Canadian officers are overly aggressive and overly insulting. Not even all the officers who are captured on video.

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