Montreal police build trust over coffee, but advocates say more work needs to be done
Many police officers from across the province spent Tuesday morning trying to build trust with the public.
In Montreal, the police officers spent the time at various Metro stations interacting with residents and pouring coffee.
“It’s coffee with a cop,” said Montreal police Inspector Danik Guerrero.
“It’s an opportunity for us to talk, to have some information, to exchange information with the public.”
The event was partly meant to target residents who just are not comfortable around police.
“Any time when I see the police, I’m afraid,” explained Mangoua, who was stopped at the Snowdon Metro station on his way to work.
The annual event started in 2014 as part of Montreal police’s community policing efforts, all in the hopes of building more trust with Montrealers.
“Are there things that we have to do more or change?” said Guerrero, saying that the informal setting helps make the police officers seem more approachable.
‘Police officers have to reflect’
Montreal police have been accused over the years of using excessive force — and there have been complaints about racial profiling.
While some agree outreach activities are to be encouraged, they caution the gesture doesn’t go far enough.
“If they’re not backed up by more substantial work in order to train and to avoid critical incidents, these outreach efforts risk becoming public relations and very superficial,” said Fo Niemi, co-founder and executive director of the Center for Research Action on Race Relations.
One area that needs work is fair representation in the forces, he added.
“Police officers have to reflect and look like the community they trying to serve and reach out to,” he said.
Still, Tuesday’s outreach did make some people, like Mangoua feel more comfortable enough to approach the police
“Today, I tried,” he said. “I’m very glad because I tried.”
“I spent five minutes here until I took a coffee, so I’m glad for me today.”
The outreach effort by the police could help pave the way for smoother relations between police and the people they’re supposed to serve.
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