Montreal police chief tells crime victims ‘I’ll be with you’ during community summit
As the names of the murder victims were read aloud at a Montreal church on Friday night, family and friends carried pictures of them into their hearts.
Charlene Hunte said she was reminded of her son Andrew, who was killed 15 years ago. She said many families like her have suffered with the victim’s killer never being found, and some who have lost loved ones gathered for the community summit – attended by Montreal’s new police chief.
Hunte said the pain was made worse by investigators’ silence.
“No contact from the police,” she said. “No follow-up. No nothing.”
Chief Fady Dagher took the podium to address the crowd at the Union United Church near the Lionel-Groulx metro station, promising that he will “find your results.” I will be with you.”
He promised to look into these cold cases and provide answers to families. He also pledged to revise recruiting strategies in the force and focus on finding officers who can build relationships in their neighborhoods.
“There’s a lot of sadness,” he said. “A lot of pain and we have to build these bridges. I’ve always been involved in the community. This won’t stop. I will get more and more involved in the community.”
2-day summit organized by CRARR
The two-day summit was jointly organized by the Center for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR) and the Church. The organizers want to bring together victims of crime and members of English-speaking black and other communities.
Fo Niemi, the organization’s executive director, said the event aims to attract more resources to meet the community’s crime prevention needs while “recognizing and paying tribute to victims of crime.”
Crime victims and survivors are usually forgotten once headlines fade from view, he said. The summit was organized to show how victims experience crime and all the consequences that come with it, long after their loved ones have died.
The summit will address rising gun violence in the city, with a focus on Anglophone communities, Niemi said.
“You may remember last year when the Montreal police held a summit on armed violence that left out many English-speaking attendees and communities,” Niemi said. “People need to feel included, people say, this is a city, this is our city, and we have to participate.”
Members of the church, community, victims and city councilors spoke during Friday night’s event along with the leader of the Service of the Police of the Ville de Montréal (SPVM).
The boss addresses the crowd in English
Addressing the assembled crowd in English, Dagher said he was honored to be there—the first time in church history that a city police chief had entered the building.
“Police need to be closer to the community,” he said. “Our mission is not to protect one population more than another.”
Dagher was sworn in as Montreal’s new police chief in January.
Dagher has a 25-year history with the SPVM but has gained local notoriety in recent years for his work as Police Commissioner in Longueuil, Que., where he introduced a model of community policing that caught the attention of provincial police services in the whole country.
“Nobody’s born a criminal,” Dagher said, and nobody’s a criminal 24 hours a day. “There is always hope.”
Saturday’s summit will be held at Concordia University, where city officials, law enforcement officials and community groups will join victims of crime to discuss crime prevention, partnerships and resources.
“The Community Summit seeks to address the needs of English-speaking Montrealers from diverse backgrounds for greater access to and inclusion in government crime prevention initiatives,” CRARR said in a press release.