Police Agent Provocateurs

Posted: October 1, 2011 by dhaliwal15 in Agent Provocateurs
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A Police Agent Provocateur is a particular type of undercover police infiltrator. However, this undercover agent does not necessarily have to be a Police officer; the agent could be any public civilian who is hired by the Police Department for a special assignment, depending on the circumstances. The role of a police agent provocateur is to basically provoke a group or crowd of people into committing crimes against the state. Provocateurs’ main job is to essentially entice and entrap a large group of people who may be easily influenced into committing harsh and irrational acts of violence, which are subsequently responded to by the state. In Canada, there have been  several big accusations made against Police agent provocateurs, especially in massive protest which occurred in Canada’s largest Metropolitan area.

In Montebello, Quebec, the Sûreté du Québec, which is the Provincial police force of Quebec was accused of using police agent provocateurs in a wrongful manner. Many people gathered to protest meetings of the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America on August 20 2007. The protest was intended to be a peaceful one, however three individuals who had their faces covered, and wore similar boots to those of the police officers dressed in riot gear, were essentially asked to leave the protest; due to them trying to turn the protest violent.

The G20 Summit riots on June 26 2010 occurred in Canada’s largest metropolitan area Toronto, Ontario. Many conspiracies have begun to arise of the Toronto Police Department  using officers as provocateurs, in order to provoke the protesters to become violent. Similar to the Montebello incident, many rioters were seen wearing similar boots as Toronto Police officers that day. Rioters wearing similar shoes as officers were caught on pictures destroying local stores, and even going as far as to jumping on top of police cars.

Police agents who provoke peaceful crowds into to turning violent should be held accountable for their actions. Officers who participate in the activities of property damage should be held responsible, similar to the members of the public who may be charged with an offence. The police are there to keep peace within and control any situations from arising. However, the more undercover officers provoke a crowd it is not only a danger towards the general public, but also it can cause a huge amount of property damage and put many officers lives at risk; with such a violent crowd. The police make the public look like a bunch of anarchists. However, many undercover officers influence acts of anarchy to be pursued by certain individuals.

After searching for “Police Agent Provocateurs” on Google, many different kinds of websites appeared on the first page of results there were about 5,560,000 hits.  Surprisingly, the Wikipedia page does contain of a decent amount of Canadian content, compared to other countries. Also, the Wikipedia page introduces the incident which took place in Montebello, Quebec. Furthermore, several multimedia websites such as You Tube appeared with videos of undercover officers provoking rioters, and escalating the violence.  Several newspaper articles appeared, such as The Star. In addition, some newspapers from the United Kingdom appeared such as: The Guardian which discussed the G20 protests in London also resulted in a similar situation as Toronto, and The Independent. A non-profit organization known as the Center for Research on Globalization (CRG) based out of Quebec, displayed several pictures of rioters and police officers wearing the exact same boots.  The Articles are fairly recent dating back to 2007.

  1. Mike Larsen says:

    Some food for thought for your next post:

    First, it would be interesting to see your explanation as to why the use of agents provocateurs is wrong (if this is your position).

    Second, how should we make sense of the use of agents provocateurs, from a sociological perspective? Is this a phenomenon that takes place at the individual level (an individual agent decides to ‘cross a line’ between passive information gathering and active provocation), a group level (several agents or a special squad attempt to disrupt a target movement or organization), or an organizational level (the strategic use of agents provocateurs is sanctioned by police managers and coordinated with other agencies or political bodies)?

    The answer to this question has major implications for accountability efforts. Your statement that “police agents who provoke peaceful crowds into to turning violent should be held accountable for their actions” reflects an individual level of explanation and accountability, for example. Does this fit with what you have observed – for example, in the Montebello incident?

  2. dhaliwal23 says:

    The term “Agent Provocateur” may sound like something coined by a Spy-thriller novelist such as John Le Carré, but as your post states these types of individuals, be it police officers or civilians, may have been utilized during the Montebello protests and G20 Summit riots of June 26 2010.
    In his Chapter on “What is Corruption?” in his text, Police Corruption Deviance, accountability and reform in policing, Punch’s depiction of the” Dirty Harry Callahan” archetype and the “Crusaders” applies well to the Agent Provocateur incidents described in your post. By this I mean that both Dirty Harry and the Crusaders believe that it is perfectly acceptable to employ devious methods in the good fight against evil so that arrests or confessions are achieved.

    It could be said that police officers who masquerade as Agent Provocateurs during public protests are not necessarily deviant in persona, but may be obsessed with crime-fighting as they despise criminals and law breakers, whom they are willing to stop through unorthodox methods. This can lead them into deviant behavior and to break the law themselves.

    The question arises, is it justifiable for the police to use Agent Provocateurs if they believe that it will lead them to arrest suspected trouble makers, as they must have perceived some of the protestors or the rioters in Montebello incident or in the G20 Summit riots of June 26, 2010?

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