Police in New Orleans and Montreal

I conceive of this as a General Question, but I s’pose it’ll turn into a Great Debate fairly soon, so here it is.

A couple of posts on this site have opined that the Montreal cops are really bad-ass. By all accounts, the New Orleans police force is one of the toughest in our country. This raised a few questions:

Are New Orleans and Montreal cops really any tougher than cops in nearby cities? I know that this evidence is going to be heavily anecdotal, and I know that not all police officers are the same, but different departments do have different group norms. So I’m wondering if anyone has noticed something peculiar about either city.

Have you noticed what I’ve noticed about each town? That’s right - each is a former French colony in a sea of British colonies. If you answered “yes” to my first question, do you think that answer might be related to some sort of lingering Napoleonic aggressiveness on the part of these urban cultures? Is there some sort of etatisme (spelling?) which distinguishes these towns from their neighbors?

Or is it possibly an “us-against-the-rest-of-the-country” thing gone out of control?

I don’t know … maybe I’m making too much of a few anecdotes. I’ve never heard anybody say the police in metropolitan France are particularly harsh, but then, France has evolved a lot since the loss of its colonies.

I don’t want to make people think like me, I want them to think like me of their own free will.

Hmmm. How 'bout this:

The cops in Montreal are pissed off because they don’t get to bust drunk sorority girls without shirts on.

The cops in NO are pissed off because the cops in Montreal are trying to muscle in on their drunk sorority girls without shirts on.

Seriously, though, I know you said the reputations of the respective PDs are anecdotal, but can you provide any anecdotes? I haven’t lived in either city, so I really don’t care all that much, but I find it hard to believe that they’re worse than the LAPD (Rodney King) or NYPD (Abner Louima).


Actually, I once saw a list in some travel book of the country’s 10 most dangerous cities. I was surprised at first glance that New Orleans wasn’t on the list, then noticed a footnote at the bottom, mentioning something to the effect that New Orleans missed being on the list due to skewed statistics that result from their police force being so corrupt.

I have heard there’s a major problem with corrupt cops all along I-10 through Louisiana, not just around New Orleans. Cars being pulled over without any cause, coerced searches, and cops planting drugs in those cars.

Seems I heard (and I could be wrong) a big reason for this is that in Louisiana, judges are given a cut of each fine they lay on somebody. Certainly an incentive to get as many convictions as possible, particularly since the cops probably get some of the take along the way, as well.

That’s one of the links I was thinking of. There’s another one I can’t find any more, on the subject of a Straight Doper who marched against police brutality in Quebec (can’t remember if it was Montreal or Quebec City, think it was the former) and got beaten up by the police for his trouble.

By the way, I didn’t mean to imply that Montreal cops were as nasty as New Orleans cops. And you’re right, andros, there have been some heinous incidents in LA and New York City. I suspect the New York incidents are rarer, but L.A. cops are supposed to be pretty bad too. I just thought it would be a huge coincidence if the worst cops in the U.S. and Canada both came from the “Frenchest” place in each country…

The link in the thread in GQ about high speed chases is to the sale on A and E’s website of a video of Investigative Reports. The story is largely about a group of New Orleans cops who agreed to guard a drug kingpin’s warehouse, eventually beefing up the squad of guards to thirty or so (since there were so many who wanted in, they opened a second drug warehouse), and in the process murdering a witness who saw too much. Unfortunately, it was an FBI sting (since IA in New Orleans was also ridiculously corrupt).

I think that “tough” is the wrong word to use, since it suggests that the cops are a bunch of badasses, and that might not be a bad thing. Rather, the problem is endemic corruption and lack of accountability. While I lived in Montreal, a shoplifter was shot in the back of the head while handcuffed and face down on the sidewalk; the officer was later exonerated in the “accidental” shooting. Later analysis ultimately blamed the lack of training given to police officers there, coupled with the a typically macho police force.

Also while I lived there: police were called to break up a disturbance by black people in one of the suburbs. When they arrived, they found a black neighbourhood meeting going on. The person in charge, a fifty year old black bureaucrat, came out to ask why the place was surrounded by police; the police then beat him senseless, putting him in the hospital.

Also while I was there: police chased down a fleeing cab. When they finally got the driver, they beat him so badly that he’s now in a permanent vegetative state (his last name was Barnab&#233 ;).

Some more: a young squeegee punk was sitting in the window of a bar called Biftek on St. Laurent Street. His dog was on the immediate other side of the railing. Police pulled over, called for backup, and four officers approach the dog, while loudly asking after the dog’s owner. The punk said that the dog was his, and hopped over the railing. Police jumped back, pepper sprayed him, and beat him. When onlookers demanded that the police stop and give their badge numbers (which they’re required to do by law), the police removed their badges and said “you don’t need that.”

The police in Montreal have a very bad reputation, especially among non-whites. IMO, it’s justified. The problem doesn’t seem to be that it’s a french force, but that it’s a force of poorly trained, macho men with little government oversight to call them on their behavior. When interviewed by the press about their bad reputation, the Chief of the Montreal Police actually had the nerve to say “we’re no worse than any other police force; we just get worse press”.

In any discussion of bad police forces, LA’s will inevitably come up, throwing off your french culture theory. Besides, the police in New Orleans aren’t very french (or cajun) at all.

Never attribute to an -ism anything more easily explained by common, human stupidity.

Funny thing about Montreal: the riot police are actually pretty decent. I can think of four incidents, all of which involved the riot police doing nothing more than forming a human wall and channeling rioters away from the epicenter, defusing the riot itself. Occasionally there’s extensive property damage (the squeegee punk riot, in '96 or '97 I think), but without tear gas and head busting, there are few arrests and few casualties.

While at the time it seems like the cops are ineffectual in handling a riot, I always think afterwards that some property damage is better than a lot of injuries and incarcerations.

Never attribute to an -ism anything more easily explained by common, human stupidity.

Why the hell is there a winking smiley face after my line about a cabbie beaten into a permanent vegetative state?

David, or any moderator, please, help me out here and remove that thing.

Never attribute to an -ism anything more easily explained by common, human stupidity.

Oh, I didn’t mean that the New Orleans cops were usually cajun, I was just wondering about the legacy of French culture, and not modern culture at that, but more like French imperial culture. So it’s a pretty tenuous theory at best!

Thanks for expounding on Montreal cops, hansel. I won’t be visiting your town disguised as a black guy any time soon…

Also, when I characterizeed the N.O. police as “tough” I was trying to find a nicer way of saying “prone to unethical activities”.

Yeah, N.O. is more Creole than Cajun. Drive about 2 hours west to get to Cajun counrty.

In my experience, and the experience of friends, the cops in N.O. aren’t actually that bad, provided you haven’t murdered anybody. They’re especially leniet for possession of small amounts of drugs. If you just have a few joints worth of pot on you, they make take it away, but they won’t arrest you, or even write you a ticket. They’ve got much bigger things to worry about.

Murder is a big enough problem in N.O. that there’s a huge billboard (somewhere near the Superdome IIRC) that says THOU SHALT NOT KILL.

However, living around Cajun cops, as I do in Lafayette, LA, I can tell you that they are horrible.

A current example is the Cubans who have been held in a jail in St Martinville, LA ('bout 15 minutes from here) FOR THIRTEEN YEARS JUST BECAUSE THEY’RE CUBAN, which is making national news since they decided to take hostages : http://www.cnn.com/1999/US/12/14/jail.hostages.03/

As Chris Rock might have said “I ain’t saying they should have taken hostages, but I understand.”

I can point out many other examples of bad local cops here. Some sold cocaine, one was a serial rapist, another two deputies robbed an elementary school just 2 blocks from the police station … the list goes on and on. Shit, in one nearby town that’s legendary for this, you can get ticketed for doing 58 in a 55!!

Polictians, cops, and just about anyone in any position of authority in Cajun country is corrupt as hell. Whenever there’s an election, there’s always at least two canidates running who have actually been INDICTED! And you know what? Sometimes they WIN the elections !!!


Is the speed trap town you mention Golden Meadow? I’m from Louisiana (Shreveport) and went to LSU in Baton Rouge. I did a lot of coastal biology at the Fourchon Lab on the Gulf Coast, and had to pass through Golden Meadow a lot. Town legend: a police officer is stationed at a certain place at night and will pull over every car that passes and write a ticket. I assume they feel no one will drive all the way back down there to contest it.

Nope, Golden Meadow is waaay down SE of Houma. That’d probably be a good 3 hours from here. The town I refer to, whose name escapes me at the moment, is within 20 miles or so of Lafayette.

I said

Turns out they have committed a variety of offenses. Sorry 'bout that. Earlier news reports were not clear. A friend had told me they hadn’t done anything, and I didn’t find out otherwise until today.

Just to clear up any confusion…