Report says STM inspectors' use of force in violent arrest was justified

·2 min read
Last April, onlookers tried to intervene by pulling the STM inspectors away from a woman they were seen punching repeatedly. (Video stills/Twitter  - image credit)
Last April, onlookers tried to intervene by pulling the STM inspectors away from a woman they were seen punching repeatedly. (Video stills/Twitter - image credit)

An external review of a violent arrest in a Montreal Metro station has concluded inspectors with the city's transit authority were justified in their use of force.

The April 17 arrest in the Jean-Talon station was captured on video and widely shared on social media.

The video does not show what led up to the event, but starts with Société de transport de Montréal (STM) inspectors struggling with a woman. One inspector sits on her legs, while the other appears to deliver multiple punches to her head with a closed fist.

The STM had launched an internal investigation into the incident, and found the use of force followed the rules and procedures taught at the École nationale de police du Québec.

The STM then hired Marco Gaggino, a lawyer specializing in police ethics, to review those findings.

Inspectors were "gradual" in their approach

Gaggino filed his report Tuesday, concluding the inspectors acted within the rules and the use of force was justified.

"The scene captured by a citizen's cell phone in which we see a person held down being hit by two uniformed STM inspectors is disturbing," the report states.

Gaggino reviewed footage captured by the security cameras and he listened to recordings of radio transmissions.

The report says inspectors spent 17 minutes with the woman, trying to establish her identity in order to issue a statement of offence.

It is when the woman tries to flee that the incident becomes violent, as inspectors work to stop and handcuff her, the report says.

On audio tapes, the report notes, officers repeatedly tell her to put her hands behind her back and stop resisting. She did not comply, the report states.

The woman injured one of the officers by biting him, the report says. He had to be treated in hospital for injuries to his arm and leg.

After a complete analysis of the event, Gaggino concludes that the two STM inspectors were gradual in their approach, in accordance with the rules.

When the force was applied, it was justified, the report states.

For example, the inspector was justified in punching her after she bit him, the report states.

The study of radio recordings did not reveal any insult, threat or provocation on the part of the inspectors during the intervention, the report states.

Gaggino made several recommendations to the STM. One is that the transit agency should review its surveillance camera coverage to ensure there are no blind spots in the metro.

The lawyer also encourages the STM to provide its security force with body cameras that record audio.

The STM says it has taken note of Gaggino's report and will analyze his recommendations.

"STM inspectors and special constables exercise a complex profession and it is essential to maintain the bond of trust with customers, the Montreal population and stakeholders," said STM chair Philippe Schnobb.

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