It is interesting that the recent tragic ERT raid in Quebec has received some critical commentary in the news media. Rarely (if ever) have I seen negative commentary in Canadian newspapers on these “dynamic entry” raids, even when the wrong house is raided and reported as such. Maybe because of the tragic consequences of this raid reporters are looking more closely at the cause and effect.
In this article in the Montreal Gazette, the writer refers to a home invasion and robbery by fake police officers to point out the problems inherent in those pre-dawn police raids.
Any other time, it would seem like a straightforward story. On Tuesday, four men dressed in what appeared to be provincial police uniforms burst into a house in St. Agapit, about a half-hour’s drive south of Quebec City. They handcuffed the occupants, searched the place, then left.
The scam was apparently so convincing, it wasn’t until the victims called the local SQ the next day to find out who was going to pay for the door broken by the “cops” that they figured something didn’t add up.
It isn’t as if this caper was breathtakingly cunning – anyone who’s ever watched The Godfather knows a police uniform can come in pretty handy if you’re planning to commit a crime.
But in a week where Laval cops were apparently mistaken for home invaders, home invaders masquerading as cops will get your attention, because nothing is as straightforward as it used to be.
So if you wake up in the dead of night to the sound of your door being smashed in, what are your options? Do you assume that it is legitimately the police, and though you will probably be treated roughly and threatened at gunpoint, you will probably survive the ordeal, or (assuming you have committed no crime and really don’t anticipate an early morning visit by police) do you react as though you are being attacked by thugs and act to protect yourself and your family?
The writer points out the problem.
One issue is that of identification – how important it is that the suspect on the other side of the door being broken down know the demolition is being done by cops rather than someone else?
That’s why what happened in St. Agapit becomes more than a bizarre crime story. Even if their uniforms were less than perfect, will reports that fake cops are wandering around out there make it tougher for the real articles to their job? And will it make the people they’re paid to serve and protect jumpy every time they see a police uniform?
“What we do know is that the address that was hit was the one the suspects were looking for,” Gagne says, noting equipment that can be used to cultivate drugs was found at the house. “People living nearby don’t have to worry that they’ll come back.”
Gagne’s probably right.
But what about the next time? How much more likely will it be that a real police officer’s odds of getting shot just increased because some criminal mastermind decided to play cops when he’s actually a robber?
The equation used to be straightforward: You kill a police officer while he or she is performing his or her duty, you are charged with first-degree murder.
But as they lower Constable Tessier into the ground today, that math seems less clear. Because after a week where cops are taken for robbers and robbers dress as cops, nothing’s as straightforward as it used to be.