An officer accused of using excessive force in an altercation with a janitor and teacher outside a Plateau-Mont-Royal elementary school last week has been reassigned to a job where he will no longer be required to deal with the public, Montreal police said Friday.
However, the officer will not face charges, said Cmdr. Ian Lafrenière.
The move follows a week-long police inquiry into the incident outside École au Pied-de-la-Montagne at the corner of Des Pins and Henri-Julien avenues, which found no criminal charges were warranted against the officer.
The inquiry took into consideration the accusations of the janitor and teacher, the version of events supplied by the officer and his colleagues at the scene as well as the testimonies of witnesses.
“You have to look at both sides of the coin,” Lafrenière said.
The incident began last Wednesday around 5 p.m. with the officer running a red light in front of École au Pied-de-la-Montagne at the corner of Des Pins and Henri-Julien avenues.
Janitor Carl Cadieux alleged the police car went through the red light without flashing its lights just as children were about to cross the intersection.
Cadieux said he yelled at the officer to be more careful and the officer returned to confront him.
Lafrenière said the officer was responding to a 911 call about a woman who was nearly struck by a truck in a nearby alley and denied that his flashing lights weren't on when he went through the red light.
He confirmed the officer spoke to Cadieux but said that it was the janitor and teacher Nadia Lessard who escalated the situation, which led to both being handcuffed and Lessard pepper-sprayed in the eyes.
Lessard said the officer grabbed her by the throat and pepper-sprayed her for touching his arm and telling him repeatedly to release Cadieux, who she said was being pinned against the cruiser and calling out in pain as the officer handcuffed him.
Lessard was charged with obstructing justice, while Lafrenière said Cadieux was issued a summons for the same offence.
Lafrenière said the officer exercised his duties within the bounds of acceptable police conduct.
“It’s extremely unfortunate that these people were arrested under those circumstances, but when a police officer is doing his job, and you don’t agree with him, and you get involved physically, that’s not the solution,” Lafrenière said.
Lafrenière acknowledged that the officer is the subject of an unrelated civil suit.
School staff deplore ruling
Cadieux and Lessard told CBC News on Friday that they stick by their allegations and will continue to pursue justice in the case through Quebec's police ethics committee.
Cadieux disagreed with the decision not to discipline the officer.
"What he did was dangerous and it's deplorable that the police are protecting him," he told CBC News. "He's dangerous and shouldn't hold the position he does."
Lessard said the worst part is the message that the incident sends to the school children who witnessed it.
"They're saying the police are mean, they saw their teacher and janitor put in handcuffs, and we are the ones trying to tell them 'no, you have to have confidence in the police.' We tell them he just made a mistake. We want to reassure them, because normally you have to trust the police," she said.