Quebec police: We're not rent-a-cops

A Montreal police car

TEXT OF STORY

Steve Chiotakis: We've heard of people moonlighting to make ends meet, but an entire police force? The police department in Montreal, Quebec, has been generating a little extra revenue with its own "Commercial Unit." Marketplace's Sean Cole did a little digging.


Sean Cole: So the commercial unit has been around for about 12 years. The idea is to take the burden off of taxpayers. Everything on the menu is provided by off-duty officers and cadets. Crisis management training, background checks, security detail for film shoots. Which for me posed the following question:

Cole: Have you ever heard the phrase "Rent-a-Cop?"

Gino Dube: "Rent-a-Cop?" If I've heard that before? Yeah, I've heard that before. It's very pejorative.

Gino Dube is commander of the Business Development Unit, which comes up with new ideas for making money. He says the phrase "Rent-a-Cop" isn't fair. These are real officers charging for expert work. For example, the band U2 is coming to Montreal for a couple of gigs in June.

Dube: They're gonna be here for two days. We have to provide the public safety. We deliver the regular service.

That is without charging.

Dube: Now if they ask for escort, if they ask for the more specifical duty, now we commercialize the service.

The unit raised about $4 million this way last year, but just a tiny fraction of Montreal's overall police budget. Still the city cut that budget by $20 million last year. How else, Dube says, do we make up Le Difference?

Dube: Do we charge more taxes to the citizen to keep the number of police officers on the street the same? Or we cut some jobs.

But the Quebec Association for the Security Industry doesn't like the police muscling onto its playing field. Daniel Croteau is on the board:

Daniel Croteau: The police need to be neutral. Citizen need to see the police officer as a police officer. Not police officer as maybe a security guard sometime.

Plus it means unwelcome competition, he says. Interestingly, Croteau himself used to dream of being a police officer.

Croteau: Yeah, at the beginning of my career, yeah, definitely. To serve and protect. For the people. Not for a company.

Anyhow, the police say they're not trying to start a war with private companies. We're police, one lieutenant told me -- we're not business people.

I'm Sean Cole for Marketplace.

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