To be clear, I’m not against public urination if done discreetly, out of necessity and in a spot where no one else has to clean up the mess, like in a park or during a rainstorm. Sometimes you just have to go and don’t feel like buying a beverage to use a public restroom.
I’ve done it a few times, usually in a park while drinking with friends. I always made sure that I was out of the way and there were no cops in sight.
That’s because police can give you a fine for relieving yourself in public. And they do, or at least threaten to, especially when you’re homeless. The SPVM routinely use Montreal’s public urination bylaw to harass people who legitimately have no other place to relieve themselves except in public space.
Police officers, on the other hand, do have plenty of choices. There’s the washroom at the station, they have homes with toilets and there are businesses. I strongly doubt a coffee shop or restaurant would make an officer in uniform buy something to use the facilities.
And yet, we’ve seen not one, but two, photos of SPVM officers taking a leak in public, in full uniform. Not only is this wrong, it is, in fact, the pinnacle of hypocrisy. If these officers were out of uniform, I wouldn’t really care. They’d be just like anyone else and I’d understand.
But no, they are representing the SPVM and breaking a law that the SPVM enforces. It would be like the police cracking down on anti-austerity protests while themselves protesting..oh wait, they do that already. Take two. It would be like a group of officers celebrating giving out tickets for drinking in public by cracking a few tall boys in the park.
I don’t blame these specific officers, though they will probably be the only ones to face any heat if this story gets bigger. I blame a police culture that lets them think it’s okay as long as they don’t get caught. That it’s okay to use bylaws as weapons. Some drunk kid pissing in the park? He’s polite, so no fine. He’s not, use the urination as an excuse to search him for something else or just use the pissing to give him a fine if you don’t like him. A homeless person is taking a piss in public? Harass the hell out of them.
If the police stopped seeing themselves as tools of the state empowered to do whatever they want and realized that they actually worked for the public, things may change. That dude in the park, that homeless man you’re planning on harassing…they’re your bosses.
Maybe this can start if we stop seeing the police as a power to avoid or deal with only when we’re in large enough groups. If we realize that they are our employees, well, two of our staff have just been caught pissing in public while wearing their uniform. How do we deal with it?
Featured image by Stephane Freightrain via Facebook