The appointment of Fady Dagher as head of the Montreal police is as bold as it is risky. The risk is nevertheless very beautiful.
Known for his avant-garde and inclusive philosophy as chief of police in Longueuil, his return to the metropolis heralds a major change in culture within the Montreal Police Service (SPVM).
In this, Fady Dagher will have to arm himself with the patience of an angel coupled with strong leadership and listening to his troops, whose job has become heavily complex for years.
Of Lebanese origin, Fady Dhager lived his childhood in Ivory Coast. Brilliant and methodical, he is a formidable communicator. An experienced patroller, investigator and manager, he also has a real sensitivity to diversity in all its forms.
In Longueuil, for its police officers, it has multiplied immersion programs “in real life with real people”. Without uniform or weapon, he dispatched them to learn in the field with cultural communities, people with intellectual disabilities, homeless people, etc.
More efficient and empathetic
In doing so, he made his police officers more effective because they were more empathetic. The Dagher approach is also part of this new way of looking at police work aimed at marrying prevention and repression.
The reason is this. Like all cities, Montreal is seeing a worrying gap widen between so-called “ordinary” citizens and those left behind.
The patrollers are confronted more than ever with what is darkest: rape, theft, racism, domestic violence, feminicides, street gangs, firearms, etc.
Above all, more than half of police work is now of a so-called social nature. This is unheard of. They are therefore often called upon to intervene in serious cases of mental illness and human misery.
They see substandard housing. Great poverty. Abused children and elders. Women beaten or killed. Extreme loneliness. The suicides. Growing homelessness. The despair.
Pick up the broken pots
The brutal reality is that day after day, the police are picking up the shards of a health and social services system which, since well before the pandemic, has been dehumanized as much as it is cracking everywhere.
In such a destabilizing context, how can they balance the “repression” and “prevention” aspects of their work when they are asked to transform themselves into social workers – which they are not.
In the XXIe century, urban police work is tough. Very difficult. However, they still lack the tools and solid training to enable them to do so much better.
And to do so while preserving their own mental health so as not to fall into indifference, racial, social or political profiling themselves.
It is precisely there that over the next few years, Fady Dagher could make THE difference.
At least, if he succeeds in gaining the trust of his troops and in return, they show themselves ready for the profound change of culture to which their new leader invites them.
Over time, for the Dagher “revolution” to materialize in Montreal, there is no doubt that this mutual trust will be the sine qua non.