Savoirs policiers, profilage politique et désinformation : la police montréalaise et son projet GAMMA

Authors: Dominique-Legault, Pascal
Advisor: Drainville, André C.
Abstract: From this thesis stems a contribution to the ever-growing sociological and criminological research on protest policing, political profiling and police knowledge. It analyzes the construction and circulation of police knowledge in the context of the implementation of the controversial GAMMA project of the Montreal Police Department. Created in 2010, the project was intended to watch the activities of marginal and anarchist movements in the city of Montreal, Quebec (Canada). Our case study focuses on the constructed police knowledge that designate the crowd, but also GAMMA itself as a police mode of action. Our investigation enables us to better understand how police knowledge was constructed in the media, mainly in 2011, comparatively to how police knowledge was constituted internally, by Montreal Police Department’s high commanding officers, between 2010 and 2011. Methodologically, our study builds on the content analysis of a press review (containing, amongst other material: 36 journalistic articles, 20 press releases and 23 opinion letters) and of a body of 55 internal documents produced by the Montreal Police Department. These internal documents were obtained via six access to information (ATI) requests sent through the provincial access to information process. These are the result of more than six years of legal and administrative procedures. Our investigation starts by analyzing constructs in police public statements, oftentimes overdetermined by the rythm of events and societal reactions. There we study more specifically police denial. Our sociology of denial uncovers surprising effects of certain police knowledge presented to the public. Amongst other things, we find public relations initiatives which (re)frame the narrative on GAMMA and redirect the public glance away from large sections of GAMMA’s activities. Moving onwards, we apply analysis techniques to internal strategic documents obtained through ATI legislation. Our study shows that, far from dealing only with characteristics that may legitimately lead to criminalization, GAMMA’s implementation fundamentally involved problematizing the political marginality of social groups. We show how characteristics of marginal movements were implicitly operationnalized into visible indicators of possible criminality, as were specific political convictions and identityrelated characteristics. These elements encouraged GAMMA officers to generalize their suspicion of members of marginal or anarchist groups. This thesis explores the subjectivity of the police knowledge used to institutionalize, on a municipal scale, a differential response targeting these specific movements. Straightforwardly, our study addresses the question of political profiling, but also sociological considerations pertaining to the concepts of "selective incapacitation", "intelligent control", "normalization" or "routinization" of protests and of "landscapes of exclusion" in our discussions on the power effects of the studied police knowledge. We also ponder on the "conceptual kettles" (or "conceptual kettling") which may nourish police imaginaries. Tracking the circulation of problematic forms of police knowledge up to high commanding officers, our study questions their responsibility in the implementation of GAMMA and in a type of « high-ranking » political profiling. Our investigation enables us to delve back into the mediatic framing of the controversy being itself carried out at the request of the police department’s top brass. We conclude that these frames have heavy consequences for, we find ultimately, that they qualify as disinformation and have the effect of obstructing different struggles against political profiling.
Document Type: Thèse de doctorat
Issue Date: 2020
Open Access Date: 7 March 2020
Grantor: Université Laval
Collection:Thèses et mémoires

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