MONTREAL - Quebec's police force found itself caught between a rock and some hard questions Friday, as it defended an undercover officer's prop at the Montebello summit earlier this week.
"Of course we wish it hadn't happened," Securite du Quebec Insp. Marcel Savard said, as he explained why one of three undercover SQ officers was caught on video holding a rock while infiltrating a group of protesters.
The protesters were gathered to voice their opposition to the meeting of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, U.S. President George Bush and Mexican President Felipe Calderon Aug. 20 and Aug. 21 as they met in Montebello, Que.
At no time did the officer with the rock threaten anyone with it or use it to incite violence by the actual protesters, Savard said.
"He only had the rock because he was trying to blend in with (a crowd of) extremists he had been with earlier."
Savard said a video of the incident that was posted on the YouTube website was taken out of context. But the video, one version of which lasts for nine minutes, does not show any 'extremists' or any else dressed like the undercover officers, who wore dark clothing and bandanas to cover their faces.
"When they were with the extremists, (the undercover officers) were given a rock and were formally asked to throw it," Savard said, acknowledging that it became apparent that the undercover officers were not protesters.
The SQ did not arrest the three officers, but handcuffed them and removed them to question them.
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"The (SQ) officers on the front line did not know (at first)_that they were undercover officers," Savard said.
The SQ is reviewing its procedures for policing protests and may alter some of its methods in future, he said.
In Quebec City, provincial opposition leader Mario Dumont said he wanted the Quebec government to explain the actions of the SQ.
"I await an explanation from the minister of public security," Action democratique du Quebec opposition leader Mario Dumont said.
"For the moment, this (measure) has been presented as a necessity. I'm not a specialist in the various operations that can be run by a police officer. At first glance, this one looks pretty special.
"I asked the minister of public security to provide explanations as soon as possible."
Genevieve Guilbault, a spokeswoman for Quebec Public Security Minister Jacques Dupuis, said Dupuis does not comment on police operations.
© CanWest News Service 2007