A Montreal police officer is coming under criticism after a video surfaced showing him threatening to tie a homeless man to a utility pole in the freezing cold.

The video shows what appears to be a homeless man dressed only in a T-shirt and long shorts being rebuked by a police officer. They are standing on a street on a day when temperatures dropped to -40 degrees Celsius in the city.

The unidentified officer, speaking in French, tells the man that police have received several phone calls about his aggressive panhandling.

“I’ve told you that if I receive another 911 call about you, I will tie you to a pole for an hour,” the officer warns. “I swear -- look into my eyes -- I swear, I’ll tie you to a pole for an hour.”

When the homeless man says nothing in response, the camera operator steps in. He tells the officer: “Those are threats you are not allowed to make, sir.” The officer responds by telling the camera operator to step back.

The encounter was uploaded to YouTube by a contributor named Omar Tunisiano. According to a description accompanying the video, the video was shot outside a Montreal Metro station around 3 p.m. Thursday.

The video has been viewed more than 44,000 times since and received hundreds of outraged comments.

Late Thursday evening, Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre tweeted that he had seen the video and was seeking a response from Montreal Police.

“The words of the police officer were unacceptable,” Coderre wrote, adding he was concerned about the homeless man’s condition.

Police representative Cmdr. Ian Lafreniere told CTV News Channel that it appears what happened was that officers had removed the man from the subway station after receiving several complaints about his behaviour. He says the officers tried to convince the man to get into their cruiser so he could be taken to a shelter, but the man refused.

Two passersby were eventually able to convince the man to follow them to “a warmer place,” Lafreniere said. Later that night, officers and homeless workers were able to track the man down and he agreed to be taken to hospital.

“He’s safe and sound in hospital, because as you can see from the video, this person was wearing just a T-shirt and it was so cold yesterday,” Lafreniere said.

He added that while the officers followed proper procedure in urging the man to seek shelter, he can’t explain why the officer threatened to tie the man up.

“I’m not trying to explain it; to be honest, it’s impossible to explain. What the officer said, it’s impossible to be proud of that,” Lafreniere said.

“But trying to find out why the officer would say a comment like this, that’s the reason the officer will meet with his commanding officer today and yes, there will be follow-up, because this is completely unacceptable.”

He added that officers have been working hard through this week’s deep freeze to ensure that the homeless find shelter, noting the force has had two volunteers on each shift all this week who have gone out to help the homeless.

As for the officer, Lafreniere tells The Canadian Press that the disciplinary measures the officer could face range from a verbal warning to a suspension.

A local advocate said police have been criticized in recent years for the ways they've dealt with the city's homeless population.

"It raises all kinds of questions that the police have been trying to put to rest for some time now," said Matthew Pearce, director general of the Old Brewery Mission.

Pearce said the incident was unfortunate, especially during a portion near the end of the short video in which the officer "made a boneheaded remark and an unacceptable threat, that was the worst part.”

 

 
- With files from The Canadian Press and CTV Montreal