Every summer, Montreal’s police department sends its most fresh-faced cadets to patrol Ste. Catherine Street. For police headquarters, it’s a way to train their newest recruits and ensure a police presence on the street without shelling out for real, fully-salaried traffic cops. For the cadets, who are sometimes known as “baby cops,” it’s more like a hazing ritual. Baby cops, you see, are entirely powerless: they can’t issue tickets and they can’t arrest anyone — they can only call for backup. Their job is to attempt, as best as they can, to control a river of downtown pedestrians swollen far beyond its normal size by the summer heat.
It’s entertaining to watch them. Montrealers normally waste no opportunity to cross against a red light, but they generally become more obedient when a police cadet is around. Even then, though, just about every red light involves a lot of whistle-blowing and a cadet yelling at someone to stay out of the street. In most cases, when pedestrians ignore the cadets and cross anyway, the cadet does nothing but look annoyed. On a few occasions, however, I’ve seen them break down and start screaming at the jaywalkers at the top of their lungs. If they can’t handle the stress of a summer afternoon on Ste. Catherine, can that really be a good sign for what’s to come?
Still, I have to give them my respect, especially considering the amount of taunts and verbal abuse they must put up with. It takes a lot to stand there, with about as much authority as an elementary school crossing guard, and try to shepherd a huge flock of unruly pedestrians. In fact, I respect them enough to actually wait for the light to change. Sometimes.
Tags: Montreal, Police, Streetlife