MONTREAL – A Montreal police spokesman has described as “unacceptable” and “inexplicable” an officer’s comment he would tie a homeless man to a pole for an hour in the freezing cold if his behaviour didn’t improve.
The policeman’s remarks were captured on video by a passer-by and posted on YouTube.
Footage shows the officer speaking to a man dressed only in a short-sleeved T-shirt and jean shorts that reached his calves.
The officer can be seen telling the man that if another citizen complained to police about him he would “tie him to a pole for an hour.”
The comments were made on Thursday afternoon as Montrealers, like Canadians in many parts of the country, were coping with bone-chilling temperatures.
Police Cmdr. Ian Lafreniere said Friday that disciplinary measures against the officer could range from a verbal warning to a suspension.
“It really isn’t what we expect of our officers,” Lafreniere said in an interview. “It is unacceptable and, especially, inexplicable.”
Police were called to the scene after callers to 911 complained that the man was being aggressive as he panhandled outside a subway station.
Lafreniere said the man refused the officer’s requests that he get into a police cruiser or go to a shelter for the homeless.
“I can’t tell you right now whether his (the officer’s) intention was to do what he threatened to do,” Lafreniere said. “But the end result is very sad.”
Other police officers eventually found the man and finally persuaded him to go to hospital.
Lafreniere said the Montreal force has had two volunteers on each shift all this week to go out to help the homeless.
While authorities were scheduled to speak to the officer later in the day, there was no word as of early Friday evening as to whether the meeting had taken place.
Mayor Denis Coderre said he spoke to Montreal police Chief Marc Parent as soon as he heard about the incident on social media.
“There is nothing that excuses that kind of remark,” Coderre said at a ceremony at the Port of Montreal.
“What was said and done was unacceptable and it can’t happen again.”
The mayor cautioned, however, that mental-health issues can be a complicating factor in such encounters.
Coderre reiterated his commitment to helping the homeless with a long-term strategy.
“When was the last time you met a homeless person, looked him in the eye and asked him his name?” he said. “It’s a question of dignity, as well.”