On Feb. 26, a group of police officers in the West Island had a morning they will never forget.
They fired gunshots at a 28-year-old man who allegedly tried to run officers over in a stolen vehicle. The suspect then sped away. Police gave chase on the 40 westbound near Boulevard des Sources. The suspect made an illegal U-turn, ending up on the eastbound side of the highway near Senneville. That’s when the suspect’s vehicle collided head-on with a Montreal police car. The suspect and a number of officers were injured.
The chase was over around 1 a.m., but the investigation had just begun. To piece the incident together, officers closed all three lanes of the 40 east in the area until about 9:30 a.m.
That meant the highly-travelled stretch of highway was closed right through the morning rush hour. Vaudreuil-Dorion Mayor Guy Pilon says citizens of his city faced delays of up to four hours, and wants to know what took police so long.
“What makes me really mad is the fact they don’t give a damn about our problems,” he said. “We have 38,000 people every morning going toward Montreal. I don’t understand why it took so long.”
At a recent Vaudreuil-Dorion council meeting, Pilon and his council-mates passed a unanimous motion demanding the province look into police strategies in similar situations. He says leadership in St Lazare, les Cedres and other off-island communities support the motion.
“When something like that happens, everyone thinks our services — I’ll be polite — are stupid. It’s nonsense that you block that many people, that much territory because you want to take pictures?
“It’s like they don’t give a damn about the rest of the population,” Pilon said.
“If anything would happen with firefighters, ambulances, people who need health services, everything is blocked. Don’t try to convince me it’s better to block a road for 12 hours,” the mayor told Global News.
Pilon wonders why SQ police officers didn’t help direct traffic in Vaudreuil. He says all the streets leading to the 40 and to the 20 were jam-packed.
Because the Montreal police had shot someone, Quebec’s bureau of independent investigations (BEI) had to be called in. A spokesperson for the bureau said its investigators arrived on the scene at 3:30 a.m. that morning, over two hours after the highway was closed. The highway reopened at 9:30 a.m. BEI spokesman Martin Bonin-Charron said officers were on the scene until 4 p.m.
Though Pilon believes the delay was “abnormal,” former SQ officer François Doré says the amount of time officers spent there was reasonable.
“It’s no surprise to me at all. Yes, it’s long, but once you’re in control of the scene, you have to be sure everything stays there. You have to take measurements, take pictures, look at tire marks. You can’t go back the next day saying, ‘Oh, I forgot to do that.’ They only had one shot to do the scene properly, so it doesn’t matter how long it took. They have to see what happened,” the 33-year SQ veteran told Global News.
Pilon wishes transport authorities would have deviated traffic to an alternate route. He thinks they could have used westbound lanes on the 40 as eastbound lanes instead for the morning rush. Transports Quebec declined a request for comment.
“I hope it’s the last time they take us hostage with an accident on the 40 or the 20,” Pilon told Global News.
He told the March 19 Vaudreuil-Dorion council meeting that though he wasn’t sure their motion would create change, it was important to let authorities know how they felt.