The mayor of Quebec City, Bruno Marchand says he has full confidence in the local police force (SPVQ) to investigate the actions of some of its officers after disturbing footage of two young Black people being arrested was widely shared on social media this weekend.
"My sincere thoughts are with everyone who was affected by these events, events that deeply upset some people or maybe even caused some to feel fear," Marchand said at a news conference Sunday afternoon.
"Responsibility, courage and respect are the values of our city," he said. "We want to make sure that respect...is something that can be felt and lived by all our citizens on a daily basis."
Marchand was joined by SPVQ Chief Denis Turcotte who says the SPVQ is working to figure out exactly what role each of its officers played in the intervention. Turcotte says his organization took action to identify the officers involved and get to the bottom of what happened as soon as it saw the shocking images.
Videos show a man in a police uniform kicking snow in the face of a young boy and another officer can be seen landing several blows while the boy is lying on the ground and being restrained.
In a separate arrest, a young Black woman is heard screaming as police drag her through the snow, at one point pulling her by her hair.
"We now know that it started inside a licensed establishment," Turcotte said. "The incident transitioned outside and that's when police were called."
WARNING | Video of arrest contains graphic images:
Turcotte says the incident spilled over into Grand-Allée Street, a downtown strip lined with restaurants and bars, and led to several arrests. He says the SPVQ is working to determine exactly what happened inside the establishment leading up to officers intervening in the street.
"There were a lot of police officers who intervened, with a lot of citizens that night," said Turcotte. "We're looking at how each [officer] was involved...and if there are actions that need to be taken against certain police officers," he said Turcotte added that none of the officers involved are currently on duty but says it's too early to know what sort of discipline they could face.
"I will never tolerate any discrimination," he said, "but I reiterate my full confidence in Quebec City police. There are thousands of interventions every year but this one has caught our attention...it's troubling and we're going to try to shed light on [what happened] and have concrete answers very quickly."
In a statement, the Quebec City police brotherhood (FPPVQ) urged the public to wait until more information surrounding the arrests is shared "before judging the police officers' conduct."
"The video edit only shows a small part of the intervention, as is too often the case, ignoring all the events that led to needing several police officers on-site," the statement reads.
Liberal MNA Frantz Benjamin says he's satisfied with the mayor's response to the arrest, but an inquiry is needed to clear up the situation.
"The issue we're facing is not only the lack of diversity but also the training and competence of police officers," he said.
"The first scenes that I saw this morning, for me, were absolutely unacceptable."
Opposition leader and head of the Quebec Liberal Party Dominique Anglade says there should be an independent inquiry but Marchand says in this case, the law dictates that it's the SPVQ who leads the investigation.
Officers actions 'embarrassing' says former official
Retired Quebec provincial police deputy director Marcel Savard says the methods used in the arrests were highly questionable and "embarrassing."
"There are specific gestures made that warrant an investigation," he said. "We can't say pushing snow in the arrested individual's face is accidental. That's one thing. The person is on the ground, handcuffed, and there are two or three police officers around him."
Placing suspects on their back as officers are seen doing to the young woman, Savard says, is a technique that's rarely used.
Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault said images of the arrest were "difficult to watch."
"Since the police force has launched an internal investigation to shed light on this event, I will wait for the findings before commenting further," she said.
Police have not said the reason for the arrests.