For rent: Montreal police

February 17, 2010 12:00 am

, MONTREAL, Feb 17 – If your company fears a terror attack or industrial espionage, the Montreal police will now come to your aid, evaluating the risks and offering security advice — but for a fee.

The Montreal police has launched a massive promotional campaign to boost commercial revenues as well as its profile, going as far as asking all of its members to search out new business opportunities.

"Police for rent," said a recent Journal de Montreal front page headline.

But if it\’s closer to home, gumshoe work you\’re after, fearing that your spouse may be cheating, then the Montreal police officer is not the man for you.

"Your wife can sleep soundly," quipped Gino Dube, head of the force\’s commercial unit, when asked how far it was prepared to go into snapping up the security work traditionally offered by private eyes.

Some private firms however are keeping a wary eye on this new competition.

The international security firm Garda, based in Montreal, has expressed concerns about its new rival.

"It\’s a real danger for Montreal residents," said Garda\’s vice president Guy Cote. "Montreal police face important challenges, and by selling their services, they are diluting their capacity to fill their main role, which is to protect the population and uphold the law."

But the force has even longer-term dreams.

"My ultimate vision is to make the police service self-financing," police director Mario Gisondi told the French-language Journal de Montreal.

"We\’ve got a budget of 600 million Canadian dollars (565 million US). If we could raise 600 million dollars through our commercial unit, Montreal residents would no longer have to pay for policing," he said.

Of course, this is more of an "ideal" than a practical objective. The force\’s commercial work last year amounted to a mere four million dollars, Dube told AFP.

It is rare that individuals turn to the police to deal with private security issues and in each case, they begin with an "ethical analysis," he explained.

If a matter concerns public safety, for example, a person who fears being the victim of racketeering, the police would deal with it in the usual fashion, without demanding compensation from the victim.

The work is carried out only by off-duty or retired officers who volunteer for it, he added.

For the most part, the Montreal police contracts with municipalities or corporations to offer security services, such as Montreal\’s international airport.

Much of the work involves professional training, routine security, or advice, for example, on what guns to buy for a small town police force or how to respond to a hostage-taking or a "crazy gunman."

They may also provide security for a concert or on a movie set, or even help a large business evaluate its security.

Dube tried to put it in perspective. "I don\’t give our officers an objective. I just say to them, \’if someone asks you for a service that is not part of your normal duties, let them know that our commercial unit may offer the service," he said.


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