STM hires lawyer for external review of violent arrest, but says inspectors followed training

·2 min read
Onlookers tried to intervene, pulling the STM inspectors after they were seen repeatedly punching the woman. (Video stills/Twitter  - image credit)
Onlookers tried to intervene, pulling the STM inspectors after they were seen repeatedly punching the woman. (Video stills/Twitter - image credit)

Montreal's public transit authority says its inspectors' use of force during a violent arrest last Saturday captured on a cellphone video was in accordance with their training. However, the STM says it has appointed a lawyer to conduct an external review of the incident.

The video, which spread on social media, starts with two inspectors struggling to hold a young woman down at Jean-Talon Metro.

One man sits on her legs, while the other appears to deliver multiple overhand punches to the woman's head with a closed fist. The video did not show what led to the altercation.

At one point, one of the inspector's arms is pulled off the woman's neck by a civilian. That's when she appears to bite one of them, and he responds by punching her in the face.

The STM had launched an internal investigation into the incident. It now says its "preliminary conclusions" indicate that the inspectors' use of force followed the rules and procedures that are taught at at the École nationale de police du Québec.

The transit authority says Marco Gaggino, a lawyer specialized in police ethics, will act as an independent expert and review those findings.

"I realize that what happened can seem shocking," said STM Chair Philippe Schnobb in a statement.

"We read, listen to and see what is being said and posted, and realize that the relationship between us and our customers has been shaken by the content of the video. As a public transit provider, maintaining the trust and security of our customers is essential, which is why we rely on an independent external expert."

On Monday, the STM gave its version of what happened, stating that inspectors stopped the woman after they saw her pass through the turnstiles without paying. She refused to identify herself and attempted to flee, the STM said.

According to the transit authority, the woman bit the inspectors more than once, causing injuries that required treatment.

Although the STM says the agents followed their training during the arrest, it also acknowledged it wants to avoid having altercations escalate to that level.

"Our inspectors have a complex job," said STM CEO Luc Tremblay. "I want us to look at what led to this intervention and what could be done to reduce the need for this type of approach in the future."