Friday, August 24, 2007

Undercover Police Officers, Clearly. Agents du Provacateurs? Hardly.

Still much ado over nothing

After two days of controversy, the Surete du Quebec have admitted that the alleged protesters taken into custody in this video were, in fact, undercover police officers.

But they maintain that the undercover officers were not agents provocateurs.

“At no time did the Quebec provincial police officers act as agents provocateurs or commit criminal acts," insisted a statement released by the force. "It is not part of the policy of the police force nor is it part of its strategy to act in this manner. At all times, the officers responded to their mandate to maintain law and order."

At the end of the day, those who are decrying the injustice of it all have nothing to rely on aside from one officer holding a rock in his hand.

Which actually provides the riot police on scene with a pretext to stage an arrest of the men in the name of withdrawing them from cover, particularly when they are at risk of being “made”. In fact, “busting” undercover police officers is a common practice:

Undercover officers are often "busted" to give a progress report and let management know if they need more or less supervision.

The assumption that undercover officers at a protest must be agents provocateurs stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of what undercover police work entails. Consider the claims that the use of undercover officers to bust a terrorist ring in suburban Toronto last year entailed “entrapment”.

Yet undercover police work is entirely legal, and is often used to build cases against organized crime cartels, although it clearly also has its uses in terms of monitoring the situation at a protest, which are known to often turn violent.

So in the end, what does the scandal ultimately boil down to? The use of undercover police officers to help control potentially riotous crowds, a tactic that has been found to be effective in the past.

Of course, there are lines that can be crossed. The various cases of American protest groups being actively infiltrated by undercover officers is particularly troubling.

With no evidence, however, of any such attempts by Canadian police forces (at least in cases where no criminal acts are yet being committed), the actions of the undercover officers in Montebello appear to be nothing more than an earnest attempt to monitor and manage a very volatile environment – a tricky task indeed, even using the most refined psychological tactics available.

Hiccups like the outing of the officers in question are bound to happen.

In the end, it is true that some of accusations turned out to be well-founded. The officers were, indeed, wearing the same brand and model of boot (this has eventually been confirmed through photographic evidence, although early enhancements of the photographs in question were very poor). It turned out that, by the admission of the Surete du Quebec, the individuals in question were police officers.

Fair enough.

But the biggest, most serious accusation of all – that they were acting as agents provocateurs – has yet to be proven, and is still being based on circumstantial evidence. It stems, however, from a tendency to assume the worst about our men and women in uniform.

Whether it’s assuming that Canadian soldiers are knowingly and willingly handing Taliban prisoners over to torturers or assuming that Canadian police officers undercover at protests are there to incite riots, the suspicion of our uniformed men and women really stems from a fanatical desire to find the worst in any accusation.

At best, it’s politically-motivated hysterics. At worst, it’s a meager attempt to transplant an American scandal north of the 49th parallel.

This is because it’s well known that political protests can turn violent and cause thousands of dollars in property damage. It’s also well known that the Al Qaida training manual instructs terrorists to lie about torture.

Yet when politics are on the line, neither of these facts matter. Many of these people choose to assume the worst, because it’s politically convenient to do so.

It gets to the point where one assumes that those portraying the proactive law and peace enforcement activities of our men and women in uniform as the acts of totalitarian police states are opposed to allowing terrorists to strike on Canadian aoil and are against rioters causing thousands of dollars in property damage to people who really have little or nothing to do with the summits they protest, but who can be sure? Most of them aren't so vocal on that particular point.

Long story short, it can now (and only now) be accepted as fact that the individuals in question at the Montebello protest were police officers. That’s far from proving they were agents provocateurs.


  1. Were you watching the same video that the rest of us watched?? A bunch of middle-aged people casually dressed and a leader trying to keep the protest peaceful, and 3 thugs with masks and padded gear--one of which was carrying a rock--that turned out to be police 'undercover'
    Yeah, hardly is the word I'd use to describe the credibility of your blog entry.

  2. "Undercover Police Officers, Clearly"


    Until they owned up to it (which they appear to be doing a bit at a time, unless they actually intend to stop short of full disclosure), my recollection is that it was ANYTHING BUT clear to you that they were undercover cops.

    In fact, if I'm not mistaken, you did your best to ridicule anyone who had seen right through this thing and drawn the correct conclusion immediately upon viewing the video.

    So your heading should read something more like this:

    Overdue Apology to Those Whose Sharp Instincts and Penetrating Insight I Doubted in my Blind Servitude to All Things Law-and-Order or CPC-Positive

  3. Way to let those personal politics shine through, crabgrass.

    First off, I'd like to know how and where, and at any point of this little controversy the Conservative party has been implicated.

    Perhaps you could argue that the PMO was issuing orders for "provocative" tactics to be used. Then again, considering that these are apparently Surete du Quebec officers, who don't fall under the PMOs authority, you'd have a harder time arguing that.

    You'd have an easier time trying to implicate the Quebec premier's office. Then again, given the tendency of your ilk to use Jean Charest to get to the Conservatives (effectively stabbing one of your own in the back), you'll certainly forgive the rest of us if we aren't holding our breath.

    To finish it off, I'll also remind you gentlemen that nowhere did I ever assert that the individuals couldn't be undercover police officers. I admitted that as a possibility all along. I merely pointed out that the evidence on hand is not conclusive.

    And let's face it: police officers and their "suspect" wearing the same brand and model of boot, while not being terribly likely, is not conclusive proof of anything, especially when that brand of boot is available for civilian purchase.

    I still stand by my position on this: I'm willing to admit when I'm wrong (and that is a trait that your cohorts simply don't share), but I'm simply not going to accept the agents provocateurs allegations without evidence, and given that staging pretext for the "arrest" of the officers in question -- removing them from the field as their cover is blown -- is a common practice, the mere presence of a rock in an officer's hand is entirely circumstantial.

  4. I didn't suggest that the CPC had been implicated - I just suggested that you're blindly partisan toward them.

    And your focus on the now infamous boots was meant to ridicule, in my view. You knew and had read that nobody was pointing to the boots as the most damning piece of evidence that the Three Bandanas were in fact cops. It was their behaviour, and the behaviour of the riot-gear-clad cops that made the truth so obvious to most of us. Both Red Tory and Canadian Cynic were drawing attention away from the boots, and suggesting that other evidence was more compelling while the boots were circumstantial. Did you not pick that up?

    More to the point, what did you actually believe before the Sûreté owned up to it?

  5. A rock in the guys hand is entirely circumstantial??
    And I ask you if you'd say the same if a non-'fake' protestor had a rock in his or her hand? Or would you be calling for an arrest and jail time for that individual?
    It must be tough to have differing value systems dependant on who's weilding a rock at a protest.

  6. Now, you're just being facetious.

    If you weren't trying to implicate the Conservative party in this, then why even drop that name at all?

    Then again, that's what this is really about to you, isn't it? That I support the Conservative party, and make no bones about it.

    Fair enough. I think you tipped your hand a little early in the game, but I'm down with it.

    But I suppose the bigger question is this: if Red Tory and Canadian Cynic were indeed trying to draw attention away from the boots, then why did they post so many times about the boots?

    Like here. And here. Don't forget here. Or here. And certainly not this.

    So it would actually seem that your claim is demonstrably wrong. But don't let that get in the way of a good partisan ploy -- since that's clearly what you're trying to turn this entire issue into.

    More to the point, I made what I believe pretty clear in the posts, if you bother to read them, instead of relying on the trash you find over at RT's and CC's little trainwrecks (or are those supposed to be blogs?). If the individuals in question are police officers, then there is cause for concern. But the evidence was (and still is) inconclusive.

    There is still no reason to assume they were trying to incite a riot, and actually every reason in the world to believe the opposite, considering that staging an arrest to remove an officer from cover is well within the boundaries of typical undercover practices, especially when an officer's cover is blown.

    Most of what was written was based on what information was available at the time.

    Like I said: was I wrong about the boots? Yes. Am I wrong about the conclusiveness of the evidence? No.

    No court of law in this country would look at the photographs offered and conclude with certainty that the pictured individuals are all police officers. For two reasons: first off, conclusive evidence is not accepted as damning evidence in a court of law (although it is accepted as cause for further investigation), and secondly, because our legal system in this country is based on the idea that the accused are innocent until proven guilty.

    Then again this is all immaterial. I've been pretty honest about this all along, even to the point where I'm willing to suck it up, be a big boy, and admit that I'm wrong.

    Neither one of the clowns you're going to bat here on behalf of have ever been man enough to that.

    I'm actually pretty comfortable admitting that I'm wrong considering that I get to be the better man while I'm doing it.

    Can your cohorts say the same about being right, if they're being smaller individuals in the process?

    Can you?

  7. My point wasn't to go to bat for RT or CC, and I’m not trying to turn it into Conservatives versus Liberals. You were criticizing various people for drawing a premature conclusion that the men in question were cops. I am arguing that it was not premature, but in fact plain beyond any reasonable doubt based solely on their behaviour and that of the riot squad. The boots were just icing on the cake. If you picked up a quarter and tossed heads 26 times in a row, would you cling to the possibility that the coin might be fair? The odds would be sitting around 67,000,000 to, but technically it would not be conclusive. You’d have to have faith bordering on insanity if not beyond that line in order to reserve judgement.

    That’s what I was getting at with the video. I think the same is true of RT and CC, though I have no business speaking for them.

    When the SQ had finally owned up to it all (under the immense pressure of what they themselves must have seen as conclusive evidence), your headline read “Undercover Police Officers, Clearly...". What did you mean by that? Did you mean it became clear upon their breaking down and telling the truth?

    I only included CPC in my remark because I’m guessing that you have the same kind of faith in them as you showed yourself to have in the police.

    I also think that if the police were to act this way with protestors at some sort of Liberal gathering, you’d probably make some effort to tie their misdeeds to the Liberal Party; at the very least I would expect you to side with the protestors. Do you think that might be true? I confess that I do see the Montebello summit as a Conservative gathering.

    I’m too tired to continue. Have a good night (or what’s left of it).

  8. If you weren't trying to turn this into Conservatives or Liberals, then why bother dropping party names at all?

    No, your hand is tipped. We know what this is about.

    The conclusion that the polic were protesters absolutely was premature. It was premature before the boot allegations came into play, and it was still premature after.

    The Montebello summit was not a Conservative gathering, it was a diplomatic summit. Diplomatic summits are non-partisan.

    Unless you're the kind of person to which everything is partisan. Do you think that might be true of yourself? I think you've made it perfectly obvious.


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